Name: Zackie R.
When a proton or a neutron are not in a nucleus they die
very quickly, so what happens to that dead particle? According to the
laws of physics they just can't disappear.
The particles do not die. It is possible for particles to "decay" into
other particles. One example is a neutron decaying into a set of three
particles: a proton, an electron, a neutrino. It is possible for particles
to join with other atoms. It is also possible for lone proton to join with
an electron, thus becoming a hydrogen atom. A free proton or neutron does
not disappear. It finds a way to become part of an atom or to change into
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College
"Free" neutrons have a half life of ~12 min and decay by emission of a beta
particle (electron), presumably yielding a proton. The energies can be found
in any "Table of Neuclides" in any handbook of physics and / or chemistry.
All the conservation laws are obeyed (energy/momentum/etc.), so there are no
"dead" particles remaining. The proton, and the deuteron both are stable, at
least on any time scale less than "cosmic".
The mass ~3 isotope tritium has a half life of about 12 years.
None of the particles disappear.
Protons outside of nuclei have not been observed to do anything. They just
stay on being protons. A neutron by itself can "decay" into a neutron, a
positron, and an antineutrino. Nothing disappears, it just isn't a neutron
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012