How Radiation Works

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Radiation is basically energy that is moving in a very specific way. Find out about how radiation works with help from a chemistry professional in this free video clip.

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Hi, I'm Robin Higgins, and this is how radiation works. OK so just to define it, radiation. This is a very general definition. But it's basically energy that's moving. And so it always has a source and it can move either through space or through a substance and so at this broad definition we realize that radiation actually includes thing like light, heat, and sound. So these are three real types of radiation but usually when we think of radiation we think of things that are radioactive or things like nuclear power plants or submarines or the atomic bomb. And so that's a different type of radiation. It's again energy that's moving. But let's take a case of uranium which is a really common radioactive atom and so I'm just going to draw its nucleus and it's really big and it has a bunch of protons and neutrons. And so actually uranium, a radioactive version is 238, 92 uranium. So this is its atomic number 92. This is its mass number. So it's number of protons plus neutrons. You can see it has a ton of neutrons and when it undergoes alpha decay it makes an alpha particle which is just the same thing as a helium nucleus and what's left over is a new still big but slightly less big atom that has 234 and 90 for its mass number and atomic number respectively. So this happens spontaneously because uranium 238 is just unstable. And that actually happens at a very specific half life it's a lot of radioactive decay has specific timelines or how likely a specific group of atoms is to decay and how long that takes. So radiation can be something that's very common and heard of a lot like light heat or sound or it can be this kind of this energy producing that we would harness the energy decay of uranium atoms or other radioactive atoms. I'm Robin Higgins and this is how does radiation work.

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