Radioactive dating geology


19-Jun-2016 14:34

Contents: The half-life of a radioactive isotope is defined as the time it takes half of a sample of the element to decay.

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To start, let's look at one that almost everyone has heard of: radiocarbon dating, AKA "carbon-14 dating" or just "carbon dating." Method 1: Carbon-14 Dating The element carbon occurs naturally in three isotopes: C12, C13, and C14. C14 is also formed continuously from N14 (nitrogen-14) in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.Some isotopes can break down in more than one way -- in these cases, each different breakdown type has its own half-life.The decay rate and therefore the half-life are fixed characteristics of an isotope. That's the first axiom of radiometric dating techniques: the half-life of a given isotope is a constant.The vast majority of carbon atoms, about 98.89%, are C12. And since carbon is an essential element in living organisms, C14 appears in all terrestrial (landbound) living organisms in the same proportions it appears in the atmosphere. Animals and fungi get C14 from the plant or animal tissue they eat for food. The C14 already in the organism doesn't stop decaying, so as time goes on there is less and less C14 left in the organism's remains.

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If we measure how much C14 there currently is, we can tell how much there was when the organism died, and therefore how much has decayed.So, if we know how much of the isotope was originally present, and how much there is now, we can easily calculate how long it would take for the missing amount to decay, and therefore how long it's been since that particular sample was formed.