|MadSci Network: Physics|
Well, with the example of 60Co beta decay, I have several comments. The beta decay, the result of the weak nuclear force, creates 60Ni in an excited state. The subsequent emission of gamma rays is a separate process, the decay of this excited state to a state of lower energy/ Actually two decays, each emitting one gamma ray whose energy comes from the reconfiguration of the wavefunction of the protons...essentially from redistributing their spatial locations so that the interaction between them is stronger. These decays are the result of the strong nuclear force (quite different from the weak force) accelerating protons, not any recoil from the emitted electron. In the quantum world, which you must deal with to truly comprehend nuclear interactions and the emission of photons, such classical concepts as a stirred up soup of protons caused by the recoil of an energetic electron (not very energetic, compared to the binding energy of the nucleus, by the way) are ill-defined and imprecise. More mathematical descriptions are better-formed. The rearrangement of the protons in the nucleus does represent a spatial rearrangement of charges which causes the emission of the gamma rays. A more precise description really requires a knowledge of quantum mechanics. Further, EM waves are not necessarily emitted precisely at right angles to accelerated charges. It's true that the distributions of emitted photons tend to peak at such angles, but there's a spread of angles. The electrons in the sun are low-energy, and the spread is quite broad (it gets sharper at higher energies due to relativistic effects). You are correct that photons from the sun are coming from accelerated charged particles. The photons emitted from the sun are emitted by accelerating electrons (not protons, they don't interact with the photons so much) in the photosphere of the sun, which is a hot dense plasma in a strong magnetic field. It emits photons very much like a simple blackbody, governed by quantum mechanics you can look up easily in the beginning of any college thermal physics book. Kittel and Kroemer wrote quite a nice book on thermal physics, which explains such things in detail and provides all the mathematical backing you need (it will take some time) to cover the subject of blackbody radiation. As far as the radiation propogating through space, the picture of an EM wave is somewhat simple. You have a time-varying electric field, changes in which cause a time-varying magnetic field. The variation in the magnetic field causes a variation in the electric field. It's like a spring going back and forth, trading energy between the two fields. As far as a deeper description of what such fields consist of at their most basic levels, your final descriptions seems to begin to scratch this surface...but the answers lie deep in string theory which is still being worked on. You seem to be thinking very deeply on the subjects of the emission of gamma rays. I suggest starting with quantum mechanics and atoms before going to considering nuclear decays. The issues in that situation are more clear-cut, and provide a better introduction to quantum mechanics. Griffiths wrote both an excellent EM book and an excellent introduction to quantum mechanics. They're usually used as textbooks for college students, but his descriptions are very clear to put the concepts in mind for general understanding. I reccomend you start with the books I mentioned, the comprehensive picture you seek has many different aspects and cannot be found on a simple website...even one as informative as the madsci network. :)
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