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In regards to a single element, this actually happened. Natural Bismut is about 100% 209Bi, which shows no obvious indication of being radioactive. The isotope had been suspected to be unstable before, but that was experimentally verified as recently as 2003, finding a half life of 1.9×1019 y. All other isotopes are unstable, too. As the half life is ...


31

If protons decay, then what you say is true: all atomic nuclei are indeed unstable, and a so-called "stable" nucleus simply has too long a half-life for its decay to be observed. The most tightly bound nucleus is $^{62}$Ni, with a binding energy per nucleon of 8.79 MeV [source], which is less than 1% of the mass of a nucleon. On the other hand, the decay of ...


17

We are never 100% certain of anything. The scientific method falsifies wrong theories, but it does not verify those we colloquially call "correct" or "true" If we tomorrow detect a normal oxygen atom decaying, we'll have to devise new theories to explain it. But we don't expect the things we call stable to ever decay (that's why they're called stable). We ...



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