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Isotope decay dating

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Many rocks and organisms contain radioactive isotopes, such as U-235 and C-14.

These radioactive isotopes are unstable, decaying over time at a predictable rate.

The latest high-tech equipment permits reliable results to be obtained even with microscopic samples.

Radiometric dating is self-checking, because the data (after certain preliminary calculations are made) are fitted to a straight line (an "isochron") by means of standard linear regression methods of statistics.

Half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the parent isotopes to decay. In another 5,730 years, the organism will lose another half of the remaining C-14 isotopes.

This process continues over time, with the organism losing half of the remaining C-14 isotopes each 5,730 years.

Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.

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Obviously, this works only for things which were once living.Simply counting the number of rings will give one a fairly good idea of the age of the tree.Periods of heavy rain and lots of sunshine will make larger gaps of growth in the rings, while periods of drought might make it difficult to count individual rings. When a given quantity of an isotope is created (in a supernovae, for example), after the half-life has expired, 50% of the parent isotope will have decomposed into daughter isotopes.After the second half-life has elapsed, yet another 50% of the remaining parent isotope will decay into daughter isotopes, and so on.For all practical purposes, the original isotope is considered extinct after 6 half-life intervals. A small portion of a meteorite is vaporized in the device forming ions.In a related article on geologic ages (Ages), we presented a chart with the various geologic eras and their ages.