What is radioactivity?

What Does radioactivity Mean

It is known as radioactivity (also called radioactivity , according accepts the Royal Spanish Academy ) property of certain bodies endowed with atoms that, the decay spontaneously generate radiation . This physical phenomenon enables the printing of photographic plates, the generation of fluorescence or the ionization of gases, among other issues.

It should be noted that radiation can be classified as electromagnetic (X-rays or gamma rays) or corpuscular . When passing through a medium , radioactivity ionizes it, either directly or indirectly.

An element has radioactivity when its isotopes are not stable and need to lose energy to reach their ground state. This loss of energy occurs with electromagnetic type emissions of particles, which allows you to modify the energy present in their nucleons or electrons, or to vary the isotope.
We have to state that radioactivity has its origin in the 19th century and more specifically in 1896, since it was when the French physicist Henri Becquerel (winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903) discovered it by chance. And it is that he himself was working on the phenomena of phosphorescence and fluorescence with a mineral that contained uranium, the Pechblende crystal.
Thus, from that moment on and by the pure chance that one sunny day he discovered that the photographic plate with which he was operating, together with the aforementioned uranium, was veiled despite not having received the rays of the Astro Rey, it was as he understood that said crystal had radiation.
This scientist was the pioneer but nevertheless it would be the great Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie who would establish the term of radioactivity. Specifically, from the study of the aforementioned Becquerel, she and her husband developed numerous studies discovered, for example, the radioactivity of thorium.
But that was only the starting point because from there they continued working and found other chemical elements that also shared this quality. This would be the case of radium or polonium. An element the latter that curiously received its name in honor of Marie's homeland.
The result of all this was not only the discovery of radioactivity but also the obtaining of this woman, together with her husband and Becquerel, of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903.
A distinction can be made between natural radioactivity (that manifested by isotopes found in nature) and artificial (induced by artificial alterations). It should be noted that the human being uses radioactivity to generate nuclear energy or to carry out various diagnoses and therapies in medicine .

Radioactivity, whose unit of measurement in the International System is becquerel , involves risks to human health . These risks, however, are highly variable and depend on the intensity of the radiation, the duration of exposure, and the type of tissue affected.
That is why it is considered that the radiations of natural origin that arise from the environment are not harmful, as long as they are kept below a certain level. In order not to exceed this limit, the person must control the exposure time to the radiation source and have some type of shielding.

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