Decay

Decay

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The term is typically distinct from radioactive decay , in which an unstable atomic nucleus is transformed into a lighter nucleus accompanied by the emission of particles or radiation, although the two are conceptually similar and are often described using the same terminology.

Beta decay is a consequence of the weak force , which is characterized by relatively lengthy decay times. Nucleons are composed of up or down quarks , and the weak force allows a quark to change type by the exchange of a W boson and the creation of an electron/antineutrino or positron/neutrino pair. For example: a neutron, composed of two down quarks and an up quark, decays to a proton composed of a down quark and two up quarks. Decay times for many nuclides that are subject to beta decay can be thousands of years.