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EXPERIMENT: Physics of The Atom

AIM: To illustrate the nature of half-life through the use of analogous systems.
THEORY: Half-life (t) is the time required for a quantity to fall to half its value as measured at
the beginning of the time period. In physics, it is typically used to describe a property
of radioactive decay, therefore radioactive half-life for a given radioisotope is a measure of the
tendency of the nucleus to decay or disintegrate and such is based purely upon that probability.
The half-life is independent of physical state(solid, liquid or gas), temperature, pressure, the
chemical compound in which the nucleus find itself and any other outside influences. It is also
independent of the chemistry of the atomic surface. The only thing thing that has an impact on
the half-life of an object is direct nuclear interaction with the particle from outside. Example: a
high energy collision in an accelerator. Half-life can be used for estimating the age of a dead
organism. The amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere has not changed in thousands of years.
Even though it decays into nitrogen, new carbon-14 is always being formed when cosmic rays hit
atoms high in the atmosphere. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and animals eat
plants. This means all living things have radioactive carbon-14 in them. When an organism, eg a
tree, dies it stops taking in carbon dioxide. The amount of carbon-14 in the wood decreases with
time as it decays into nitrogen with a half-life of about 5700 years. By comparing how much
carbon-14 there is in the dead organism with the amount in a living one, the age of the dead
organism can be estimated.

VARIABLES: Controlled: The coins used, The can used, The place where the coins are thrown
Manipulated: The number of throws
Responding: The number of undecayed atoms (t)

APPARATUS:: 100 Coins


Cylindrical container/tin

Michael
Timson
Form: 4E

DIAGRAM:

Jar

Coins (Heads or Tail)

Michael
Timson
Form: 4E

METHOD:
1. The total number of coin(undecayed atoms) was noted where the number of throws(n)=0
2. The coins were then placed into the jar where heads represented decayed atoms and tails
represented undecayed atoms.
3. The can was shaken vigorously to ensure that the coins were mixed and the coins were
then and was then, flung and scattered on the floor.
4. The number of heads and tails were counted and the undecayed atoms were placed back
into the can
5. Steps 3 and 4 was repeated until undecayed atoms = 1
6. The entire experiment was repeated of to obtain a second set of readings

RESULTS: TABLE SHOWING THE FIRST READING OF DECAYED AND UNDECAYED


COINTED FOR EACT THROW

No. of Throws

Decayed

Undecayed

100

47

53

25

28

15

13

Michael
Timson
Form: 4E

TABLE SHOWING SECOND READINGS OF DECAYED AND UNDECAYED


COINS FOR EACH THROW
No. of Throws

Decayed

Undecayed

100

55

45

19

26

10

13

CALCULATIONS:
Half life from 100 = t1-t2
= 1.1-0
=1.1

Half-life from 80 = t3- t2


=1.4-0.4
=1.0

Half-life from 60 = t4-t5


= 1.9-.8
=1.1
Average half-life = (1.1+1.0+1.1)/3
=1.1
Michael
Timson
Form: 4E

PRECAUTIONS:
1. The floor was observed and ensured that it was clear from obstacles that will prevent the
ball from rolling.
2. All the coins used were of the same type
3. All the readings were taken in the same location.
4. All the coins were tossed using the same hand and movement.
5. All the coins counted (decayed and undecayed) were added up to ensure that their total
added up to the previous total amount of undecayed atoms.
6. The floor was fully scanned after each reading to ensure that all coin were counted and
either placed aside or placed into the jar.
7. The same person must did all the coin tossing.
SOURCES OF ERROR:
1.
2.
3.
4.

All the coins used wouldnt have been 100% identical.


The same hand movement wouldnt be100% identical every time.
The coins each time did not land on the same exact place.
Ground was rough which may have prevented the coin from rolling freely.

DISCUSSION: The results of this experiment is random meaning that it would vary every time
the experiment is conducted, therefore if another classmate is to conduct the same experiment,
they would not obtain the results as seen in the. If one coin is marked with an X it cannot be
predicted that it will decay, because radioactive decay is a random process. Radioactive decay,
also known as nuclear decay or radioactivity, is the process by which a nucleus of an
unstable atom loses energy by emitting particles of ionizing radiation. Radioactive decay is
a random process at the level of single atoms, in that, according to quantum theory, it is
impossible to predict when a particular atom will decay. However understand and characterize
the decay of radionuclides on the basis of statistical analysis. Only by looking at a large number
of atoms of a given isotope of a given element and counting the decay events over time can we
quantify the decay rate. This is what the term half-life is used to state, based on the statistics,
when half of a given quantity of a substance will have undergone radioactive decay. This
experiment was a enjoyable experiment and a successful one. Improvement could be mane. An
example of an improvement is that a smoother surface could have been used instead of a rough
one. The result in the table shows that radioactive decay occurs randomly. From the graph obtain,
three half livfe were calculated and found to be 1.1, 1.0 and 1.0. Therefore it can be concluded
that the half life was constant.
CONCLUSION: As seen in the two tables obtained, radioactive decay happens randomly.
However the half-life as seen in the calculation was constant.
Michael
Timson
Form: 4E