Polonium and settled science

Oct. 13, 2014
What's up with polonium and its half-life?

Actual scientists know science is truly open ended and there are always new horizons to expand and explore. More importantly, scientists should know a new discovery could prove them wrong.

Take polonium-209, for example. It’s a radioactive isotope used in dating samples taken from the bottom of lakes and oceans to measure mankind’s effects on the environment over the last century.

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology got wind of some inaccuracy in the established value for Po-209’s half-life, the one scientists had come up with, “settled” on, back in 1956. So the NIST team applied a bit of 21st century engineering and determined P-209’s half-life is 25% longer than previously thought. For almost 60 years, it was a “fact” accepted by a consensus of scientist that Po-209’s half-life was 102 years +/-5 yr. Turns out it’s more like 125.3 years +/-3.2 yr.

Makes me glad I never memorized that little piece of trivia, Po-209’s half-life.

And makes me wonder if it renders those environmental-impact studies more dire or more benign.

Sponsored Recommendations

MOVI-C Unleashed: Your One-Stop Shop for Automation Tasks

April 17, 2024
Discover the versatility of SEW-EURODRIVE's MOVI-C modular automation system, designed to streamline motion control challenges across diverse applications.

The Power of Automation Made Easy

April 17, 2024
Automation Made Easy is more than a slogan; it signifies a shift towards smarter, more efficient operations where technology takes on the heavy lifting.

Lubricants: Unlocking Peak Performance in your Gearmotor

April 17, 2024
Understanding the role of lubricants, how to select them, and the importance of maintenance can significantly impact your gearmotor's performance and lifespan.

From concept to consumption: Optimizing success in food and beverage

April 9, 2024
Identifying opportunities and solutions for plant floor optimization has never been easier. Download our visual guide to quickly and efficiently pinpoint areas for operational...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!