e. Previously it was said that an unstable configuration of neutrons and protons
in a nucleus is sometimes made more stable by a rearrangement of the components
with no particles emitted. Such changes are accompanied by radioactivity in the form of
energy. With different configurations of the nucleus, the components are bound with
different energies and so, upon rearrangement, energy is often released in the form of
electromagnetic waves called gamma rays (symbol ϒ). These are like light waves
except that their frequencies are much higher and they are not visible to the human eye.
It is important to note that no change in atomic structure accompanies emission (A and
Z numbers remain the same) and the only effect upon the nucleus involved is to leave it
with less energy and usually with less tendency for further decay.
f. Table 1-1 presents a summary of the effect of radioactive emissions on the
structure of an atom.
Table 1-1. Radioactive Summary.
g. Alpha, beta, and gamma radiations are the primary emissions resulting from
natural radioactive decay. There are many other types of emissions that occur from
artificially-produced radioactive material. These artificial nuclei may emit neutrons,
positive electrons, and other emissions not important to this discussion. The neutrons
are especially important in applications of nuclear energy for they can cause nuclear
fission, a reaction fundamental to nuclear explosions and the generation of nuclear