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This segment explains how nuclear fission creates new elements. Students also learn about the characteristics of the three particles that result from nuclear decay, alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, and the energy derived from nuclear fission.

Premiere Date: August 17, 2016 | Runtime: 00:14:15

Our host explains that nuclear chemistry is what happens in the nucleus of an atom. This segment also covers the nature of radioactivity and the release of energy as it occurs. The students perform an experiment with a cloud chamber and get to see vapor trails, which are evidence of nuclear decay.

Support Materials

Unit 11A Note Taking Guide & Segment Questions
Crosscutting Concepts  
System and System Models

Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.


Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.

Stability and Change

For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.

Structure and Function

The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.

Cause and Effect

Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.

Science & Engineering Practices  
Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Once collected, data must be presented in a form that can reveal any patterns and relationships and that allows results to be communicated to others. Because raw data as such have little meaning, a major practice of scientists is to organize and interpret data through tabulating, graphing, or statistical analysis. Such analysis can bring out the meaning of data—and their relevance—so that they may be used as evidence.
Engineers, too, make decisions based on evidence that a given design will work; they rarely rely on trial and error. Engineers often analyze a design by creating a model or prototype and collecting extensive data on how it performs, including under extreme conditions. Analysis of this kind of data not only informs design decisions and enables the prediction or assessment of performance but also helps define or clarify problems, determine economic feasibility, evaluate alternatives, and investigate failures. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61-62)

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher—in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials)— to those that emerge from students’ own questions. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61)

Request Teacher Toolkit  

The Chemistry Matters teacher toolkit provides instructions and answer keys for labs, experiments, and assignments for all 12 units of study. GPB offers the teacher toolkit at no cost to Georgia educators. Complete and submit this form to request the teacher toolkit. You only need to submit this form one time to get materials for all 12 units of study.