Radioactive decay is the process in which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by emitting ionizing particles and radiation. This decay, or loss of energy, results in an atom of one type, called the parent nuclide transforming to an atom of a different type, called the daughter nuclide. For example: a carbon-14 atom (the "parent") emits radiation and transforms to a nitrogen-14 atom (the "daughter"). This is a random process on the atomic level, in that it is impossible to predict when a given atom will decay, but given a large number of similar atoms, the decay rate, on average, is predictable. The SI unit of radioactive decay (the phenomenon of natural and artificial radioactivity) is the becquerel (Bq). One Bq is defined as one transformation (or decay) per second. Since any reasonably-sized sample of radioactive material contains many atoms, a Bq is a tiny measure of activity; amounts on the order of TBq (terabecquerel) or GBq (gigabecquerel) are commonly used. Another unit of (radio)activity is the curie, Ci, which was originally defined as the activity of one gram of pure radium, isotope Ra-226. At present it is equal (by definition) to the activity of any radionuclide decaying with a disintegration rate of 3.7 × 1010 Bq. The use of Ci is presently discouraged by SI.
The neutrons and protons that constitute nuclei, as well as other particles that may approach them, are governed by several interactions. The strong nuclear force, not observed at the familiar macroscopic scale, is the most powerful force over subatomic distances. The electrostatic force is also significant, while the weak nuclear force is responsible for beta decay.