If you could watch a single atom of a radioactive isotope, U-238, for example, you wouldn’t be able to predict when that particular atom might decay.It might take a millisecond, or it might take a century. But if you have a large enough sample, a pattern begins to emerge.How many months it takes to get there is just a measurement of time, and time is both precious and fleeting.
Oh, and that girl I knew in college who went on a date with a college professor and was married to him two days later. Over 10 years later, they’re still married, and now have two kids. So when, after just five months of dating someone, I announced to my friends and family that I was engaged, the shock was, well, huge.Admittedly, I was shocked myself, and I expected others to be stunned by it, but the outpouring of public “Congratulations!” messages that were followed by private emails begging, “Are you fucking kidding me?” was something I surely didn’t expect – at least not to that extent. We had a great six weeks together, he swept me off my feet, we fell in love, and then I headed back home to New York City.After that, our relationship was based on texts, email and lots of video chats.
We had decided that we were going to try to make it work despite the huge distance between us.For example, you can’t find the remaining amount of an isotope as 7.5 half-lives by finding the midpoint between 7 and 8 half-lives.This decay is an example of an exponential decay, shown in the figure below.It takes a certain amount of time for half the atoms in a sample to decay.It then takes the same amount of time for half the remaining radioactive atoms to decay, and the same amount of time for half of those remaining radioactive atoms to decay, and so on. The amount of time it takes for one-half of a sample to decay is called the half-life of the isotope, and it’s given the symbol: It’s important to realize that the half-life decay of radioactive isotopes is not linear.I feel what I feel, and I’m not about to throw it away.