Definitions for half life

This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word half life

Princeton's WordNet

  1. half life, half-life(noun)

    the time required for something to fall to half its initial value (in particular, the time for half the atoms in a radioactive substance to disintegrate)

Freebase

  1. Half-life

    Half-life is the amount of time required for the amount of something to fall to half its initial value. The term is very commonly used in nuclear physics to describe how quickly unstable atoms undergo radioactive decay, but it is also used more generally for discussing any type of exponential decay. The original term, dating to Ernest Rutherford's discovery of the principle in 1907, was "half-life period", which was shortened to "half-life" in the early 1950s. Rutherford applied the principle of a radioactive element's half-life to studies of age determination of rocks by measuring the decay period of radium to lead-206. Half-life is used to describe a quantity undergoing exponential decay, and is constant over the lifetime of the decaying quantity. It is a characteristic unit for the exponential decay equation. The term "half-life" may generically be used to refer to any period of time in which a quantity falls by half, even if the decay is not exponential. The table on the right shows the reduction of a quantity in the number of half-lives elapsed. For a general introduction and description of exponential decay, see exponential decay.

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