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After another 5,730 years, one-quarter of the original will remain.On the other hand, the time it will take a puddle to half-evaporate depends on how deep the puddle is.A half-life usually describes the decay of discrete entities, such as radioactive atoms.

Mathematically, the sum of two exponential functions is not a single exponential function.

A common example of such a situation is the waste of nuclear power stations, which is a mix of substances with vastly different half-lives.

The term is also used more generally to characterize any type of exponential or non-exponential decay.

For example, the medical sciences refer to the biological half-life of drugs and other chemicals in the human body. The original term, half-life period, dating to Ernest Rutherford's discovery of the principle in 1907, was shortened to half-life in the early 1950s.

In such cases, the half-life is defined the same way as before: as the time elapsed before half of the original quantity has decayed.

However, unlike in an exponential decay, the half-life depends on the initial quantity, and the prospective half-life will change over time as the quantity decays.There are various simple exercises that demonstrate probabilistic decay, for example involving flipping coins or running a statistical computer program.The decay of many physical quantities is not exponentialâ€”for example, the evaporation of water from a puddle, or (often) the chemical reaction of a molecule.The accompanying table shows the reduction of a quantity as a function of the number of half-lives elapsed.Simulation of many identical atoms undergoing radioactive decay, starting with either 4 atoms per box (left) or 400 (right).Thus, the mixture taken as a whole will not decay by halves.

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