How long do fundamental particles last?
Dear Dr. Smith,
How long do protons and neutrons survive outside an atom?
Martin - Protons and electrons, as far as we're concerned in our lifetime last forever...
Neutrons last for just under 15 minutes if they're on their own.
To do an experiment - actually the experiments we do with neutron scattering take place where you only need for them to last for less than a second, so that's not an issue - but you can actually capture neutrons, and put them in something like a little bottle. They last for just under 15 minutes. If you have a neutron that's actually part of a nucleus, then it effectively lasts forever. But, on its own, just under 15 minutes.
Dave - So being inside that nucleus is somehow stabilising it, making it last a lifetime?
Martin - Yes, absolutely.