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  1. Jun 2019
    1. Radioactive decay is a stochastic (i.e. random) process at the level of single atoms. According to quantum theory, it is impossible to predict when a particular atom will decay,[1][2][3] regardless of how long the atom has existed. However, for a collection of atoms, the collection's expected decay rate is characterized in terms of their measured decay constants or half-lives. This is the basis of radiometric dating. The half-lives of radioactive atoms have no known upper limit, spanning a time range of over 55 orders of magnitude, from nearly instantaneous to far longer than the age of the universe.