Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy


Date of this Version

October 1966


Published in American Journal of Physics 34:10 (October 1966), p. 986 . Copyright © 1966 American Association of Physics Teachers. Used by permission.


An experiment to simulate radioactive decay is easily performed with a random-number generator or a set of random numbers. The nuclei are imagined to be indexed consecutively. The initial appearance of the index number of a particular nucleus is interpreted as a signal that it has disintegrated. The number of surviving nuclei is an exponential function of the number of draws, and represents the radioactive decay law, with fluctuations. This procedure is a precise realization of the conventional probabilistic derivation of the radioactive decay law if, indeed, the random number generator is truly unbiased.

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