# Would alpha decay taste sour?

If someone were foolish and/or brave enough to build a device to focus the alpha decay products from a radioactive sample, then point it at their tongue through their open mouth, would it taste sour, assuming there were sufficient helium nuclei?

On one hand, I can imagine the eletro-negativity of the alpha decay products being high enough that it would act as an acid and trigger the sour-response in the taste bud.

On the other hand, I can imagine it not tasting like anything for the two following reasons:

1. The helium nucleus might quickly gain electrons and become inert before it had a chance to trigger a neural response

2. The helium nucleus might cause enough damage to the taste buds to render them ineffective

I know this is a bit of a silly question, but what would alpha-decay taste like?

• @JonCuster I was thinking about rewording that... I simply meant, "a large enough quantity helium nuclei" – TheCatWhisperer Jul 30 at 20:35
• Fair enough, but alphas aren't protons, hence my question. I don't see how an ionized alpha particle would act as an acid. Sure, it wants to grab somebody's spare electron, but that isn't an acid. – Jon Custer Jul 30 at 20:36
• Yes, but they contain protons, and no electrons to balance them out. Acids like to grab electrons from other chemicals. However, if you do not believe a helium nucleus would act like an acid, seems like that would be a good start to an answer ;) – TheCatWhisperer Jul 30 at 20:40
• @TheCatWhisperer: When people ask for clarification in comments, the thing to do is to edit the question, not answer in comments. – Ben Crowell Jul 30 at 20:58
• All nuclei contain protons. Most contain neutrons as well... – Jon Custer Jul 30 at 21:09

You are likely thinking of protons having a sour taste, since we experience H$$^{+}$$ as sour (actually, it is H$$_3$$O$$^+$$ in water). However, alpha particles either zip through the sensory cells and just act as ionizing radiation or slow down and then behave like tasteless helium.