Radioactice dating

Understand how decay and half life work to enable radiometric dating.

Play a game that tests your ability to match the percentage of the dating element that remains to the age of the object.

Although the time at which any individual atom will decay cannot be forecast, the time in which any given percentage of a sample will decay can be calculated to varying degrees of accuracy.

The time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is known as the half life of the isotope.

Some isotopes have half lives longer than the present age of the universe, but they are still subject to the same laws of quantum physics and will eventually decay, even if doing so at a time when all remaining atoms in the universe are separated by astronomical distances.

Various elements are used for dating different time periods; ones with relatively short half-lives like carbon-14 (or C) are useful for dating once-living objects (since they include atmospheric carbon from when they were alive) from about ten to fifty thousand years old. Longer-lived isotopes provide dating information for much older times.

The object's approximate age can then be figured out using the known rate of decay of the isotope.

For organic materials, the comparison is between the current ratio of a radioactive isotope to a stable isotope of the same element and the known ratio of the two isotopes in living organisms.

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For inorganic materials, such as rocks containing the radioactive isotope rubidium, the amount of the isotope in the object is compared to the amount of the isotope's decay products (in this case strontium).

Radiocarbon dating is one such type of radiometric dating.

A process for determining the age of an object by measuring the amount of a given radioactive material it contains.

The key is to measure an isotope that has had time to decay a measurable amount, but not so much as to only leave a trace remaining.

If one knows how much of this radioactive material was present initially in the object (by determining how much of the material has decayed), and one knows the half-life of the material, one can deduce the age of the object.Learn about different types of radiometric dating, such as carbon dating.

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