By Dino Lemonofides

British cavalry criteria

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It measures the amount of ionization produced per unit volume by the particles from radioactive decay. Note 4: Nuclear Half-Life The concept of "half-life" is basic to an understanding of radioactive decay of unstable nuclei. Unlike physical "systems"--bacteria, animals, men and stars--unstable isotopes do not individually have a predictable life span. There is no way of forecasting when a single unstable nucleus will decay. Nevertheless, it is possible to get around the random behavior of an individual nucleus by dealing statistically with large numbers of nuclei of a particular radioactive isotope.

However, the fission process is still necessary to achieve the high temperatures and pressures needed to trigger the hydrogen fusion reactions. Thus, all nuclear detonations produce radioactive fragments of heavy elements fission, with the larger bursts producing an additional radiation component from the fusion process. The nuclear fragments of heavy-element fission which are of greatest concern are those radioactive atoms (also called radionuclides) which decay by emitting energetic electrons or gamma particles.

Yet another surprise was the discovery that electromagnetic pulses can play havoc with electrical equipment itself, including some in command systems that control the nuclear arms themselves. Much of our knowledge was thus gained by chance--a fact which should imbue us with humility as we contemplate the remaining uncertainties (as well as the certainties) about nuclear warfare. What we have learned enables us, nonetheless, to see more clearly. We know, for instance, that some of the earlier speculations about the after-effects of a global nuclear war were as far-fetched as they were horrifying--such as the idea that the worldwide accumulation of radioactive fallout would eliminate all life on the planet, or that it might produce a train of monstrous genetic mutations in all living things, making future life unrecognizable.

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