Physicists Discover an Atomic Oddity
`Sam Tabor, a professor of experimental nuclear physics at FSU and director of the university’s Superconducting Accelerator Laboratory, recently performed the experiment at the GSI laboratory in Darmstadt, Germany, in collaboration with the international team. In the experiment, a cigar-shaped atom was created using a particle collider. To the scientists’ surprise, this atom demonstrated a novel kind of radioactive decay by spitting out two free protons at the same time.
Radioactive decay normally involves the emission of one of three types of particle: a helium nucleus consisting of two protons and two neutrons, an electron or a photon. Exotic atoms engineered to contain fewer neutrons than in the atom’s natural state were expected to break down by emitting protons one at a time. But the correlated two-proton decay hadn’t been seen before and represents a new form of radioactivity.’