August 7, 1987

Types of Radiation: The Journal Flunks Physics

Author Affiliations

University Children's Hospital Basel, Switzerland

University Children's Hospital Basel, Switzerland

JAMA. 1987;258(5):611. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400050053016

To the Editor.—  In the table entitled "Types of Radiation" on page 560 of the Aug 1, 1986, issue of JAMA,1 an accumulation of mistakes is found that could not have been surpassed even by intent.Alpha radiation is not the emission of two protons and two neutrons, ie, four particles, but of one alpha particle that may be regarded as a nucleus of the element helium, consisting of two neutrons and two protons. In alpha decay, the energy is strictly defined. This leads to well-defined traveling distances in air, which differ in the case of different alpha emitters.Beta radiation consists of electrons or positrons. As Einstein proved, the speed of light cannot be reached by such radiation! In the case of positron radiation, secondary gamma radiation resulting from the annihilation energy of a positron with its antiparticle, the electron, is observed. The energy spectrum of beta radiation