How do things become radioactive

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Been on a paranormal kick but not necessary a believer, wondering how objects become radioactive that aren’t usually (like the hikers clothes at Dyotlov pass) I understand why they are considered radioactive (atoms with access energy?) but do we know why they suddenly are or is it a mystery in and of itself?

In: Chemistry

6 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Radioactivity is when the core (nucleus) of an atom is unstable. I.E. it’s in a state where it could change to get into a lower energy state. When that happens it will release the excess energy, and sometimes parts of the core itself are ejected in the form of radiation.

Some elements are naturally radioactive and can never be stable (Uranium, Plutonium). 

Some elements can be in instable states after being hit with something highly energetic. Most famously radiation from space hitting Nitrogen and turning it into radioactive Carbon (C-14) wich will eventually turn back to Nitrogren again by releasing the energy.

How most random object become radioactive though is by absorbing radioactive dust. After a nucleat incident it isn’t random items suddenly having instable atoms, it’s instable atoms flying around and being caught in clothes or our body. Some elements are especially dangerous, for example Iodine wich our body will store longterm because in it’s non radioactive form it’s important to our body.

Random radioactive elements appear in those nuclear indicidents in two ways. First they can be decay products, like instable Uranium splitting into two slightly more stable atoms wich are still radioactive. The other is highly energetic neutrons being shot around and caught in other atoms wich become unstable/radioactive that way. (Unbalanced number protons/neutrons is a very common for of instability)

Anonymous 0 Comments

Stuff typically become radioactive because of contamination. That is when radioactive material in the environment stick to the object. 

Clothes get dirty when you use them, if dirt is radioactive then the dirty clothes get radioactive too. It is not just solids, if you are in a smoky environment your clothes starts to smell of smoke to. 

Neutron radiation can make non radioactive atoms radioactive trough transmutation, but it is a lot rarer  then contamination unless it I material that is close to a neutron radiation source like a nuclear reactor for a long time

Anonymous 0 Comments

No, none of it is a mystery, and there certainly is no paranormal element, because the paranormal is made-up nonsense.

When nuclear fission reactions occur, they create radioactive fission products. Those products can contaminate other things, like clothing, water, soil, air, etc. Once contaminated by the radioactive contaminants, the contaminated objects are then radioactive. In the case of the Dyotlov Pass business, no one really knows, because we just don’t don’t have sufficient information to know exactly what occurred.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There was nothing supernatural about the Dyatlov pass incident, it was just an until then unknown type of avalanche which killed some of the campers and the rest died of hypothermia after their camp was destroyed and they exhibited behaviors that are well known in cases of hypothermia. Whatever radiation was found was likely contamination from [the gas mantle of a portable lantern that often contain radioactive thorium](https://orau.org/health-physics-museum/collection/consumer/products-containing-thorium/gas-lantern-mantles.html). The lantern was likely smashed open and contaminated one victims clothes in the avalanche that caused the deaths.

In fact, that is how most things “get radioactive”. They are dirtied by a radioactive material, either naturally occurring which has been refined and concentrated by humans, or man-made in a nuclear reactor or particle accelerator. It is this radioactive material sticking to the object that is the source of the radiation.

Why radioactive materials are radioactive is also well understood: Some atomic nuclei are unstable and will randomly break apart into smaller pieces, sending off small particles at great speed. These particles are nuclear radiation and have enough energy to knock electrons bound to atoms loose, causing errant chemical reactions. Occasionally the vibration of the resulting parts will also emit a very high-energy light particle called a gamma ray which is another type of nuclear radiation. How often nuclei of a certain type tend to fall apart is their “activity”, more activity -> more radiation.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There’s two ways to make something radioactive. There’s the complicated way and the simple way.

**The Complicated Way**
Direct high-energy subatomic particles into the material. Some of the particles will interact with the atomic nuclei in the material, with different results, depending on the kind of particle. Positrons and electrons can change the electric charges of the nuclei so that they become unstable isotopes that can then gradually decay over time, emitting radiation in the process; charged particles from the sun do that all the time to nitrogen in the atmosphere, transforming it into radioactive carbon-14. Neutrons can likewise turn the nuclei into unstable isotopes, this time by changing their atomic mass.

This is complicated because you need a very prolific source of these particles to have any kind of effect on the material you’re trying to make radioactive, in which case you’re better off just using that source instead as the source of radioactivity.

**The Simple Way**
Just get a radioactive substance into the material. A fair amount of the substance will rub off onto it, making the whole thing radioactive. This is such a simple method that it can often happen by accident, such as in Marie Curie’s lab. She and her assistants got the substances on their hands and then rubbed that all over the nearby fixtures. The same thing happens with radioactive fallout where a nuclear weapon or a plant meltdown causes radioactive material to become vapourized; the material eventually settles out of the air onto everything that’s downwind, making it all radioactive. That was the situation in Chernobyl.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Others have addressed how radioactivity works. As for Dyatlov pass specifically.

Thorium is a radioactive element that was used in lanterns for the better part of a century, including the one that was used by the campers (per national geographic). Its entirely possible the lantern broke and left trace amounts of material on there clothes. In the event of an actual radiological event like has been proposed (bomb testing for example; the event took place during the cold war in the wilderness where the soviet union was known to do testing,) they would have all had dust on them not just one of them.

In truth, the most likely scenario goes something like this. A group of campers go out for a hike in the mountains. An avalanche occurred during the night crushing the tent. They cut themselves out, dragging the injured with them. They died as a result of a combination of there injuries and hypothermia. There state of undress is common in hypothermia; your brain starts to shut down and your body starts to feel warm resulting in paradoxical undressing. The lantern was crushed by the avalanche and was next to one of them who got trace amounts of material on them. Animals got to there bodies and ate parts of them. This is best explanation we have based on modern surveys which have given much more credence to the avalanche theory.

What happened was a tragedy; not ghosts or soviet sonic weapons testing or something.