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May 31 / kkrizka

Loving Wolfram|Alpha

I have to say that I’m loving Wolfram’s new “search engine”, Wolfram|Alpha! As I’m going through some practice problems in David Griffiths’s Introduction to Elementary Particles, I come across this: “…determine the corresponding energy and compare it with that of an electron emitted in, say, the beta decay of tritium.” The problem is I don’t have a textbook with me where I could find that value… That’s where Wolfram|Alpha came to rescue me, as a simple search for “tritium” lead to this result:


BINGO! That’s the number (Q-value) I was looking for. Heck, I might as well throw away my PDG data booklet, because it also has entries for many of the elementary particles.

For those wondering, I was trying to calculate the minimum energy an electron emitted through beta decay would have, if it did not come from a decaying neutron but existed all along. A simple manipulation of the uncertainty principle leads a result of 49MeV, which is inconsistent (as expected) with the value returned from Wolfram|Alpha.

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