Radioactive dating activity
Unstable nuclei decay. However, some nuclides decay faster than others. For example, radium and polonium, discovered by the Curies, decay faster than uranium. This means they have shorter lifetimes, producing a greater rate of decay. In this section we explore half-life and activity, the quantitative terms for lifetime and rate of decay. Why use a term like half-life rather than lifetime?
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Radiometric Age Dating
Radioactive decay – decay constant, activity, half life
In , Antoine Becquerel discovered that a uranium-rich rock emits invisible rays that can darken a photographic plate in an enclosed container. Scientists offer three arguments for the nuclear origin of these rays. First, the effects of the radiation do not vary with chemical state; that is, whether the emitting material is in the form of an element or compound. Second, the radiation does not vary with changes in temperature or pressure—both factors that in sufficient degree can affect electrons in an atom. Third, the very large energy of the invisible rays up to hundreds of eV is not consistent with atomic electron transitions only a few eV.
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Most people have a birth certificate or other identification to show how old they are. Most rocks don't have certificates, so scientists use the half-life to measure the life of long-dead organisms! Can you guess the time period using clues from the clothing in the above image? How old do you think this picture might be? If you skipped or need to review the four previous Radioactivity Related Lessons , find them in the right-hand sidebar.
Use this decay calculator to easily calculate the time elapsed since the beginning of the decay, or calculate the original quantity, half-life or remaining quantity of a substance subject to radioactive decay, based on any of the three parameters. Convert half-life to mean lifetime or decay constant, and vice versa by entering any of the three values in its respective field. Our versatile radioactive decay calculator supports many different time units and automatically converts them if the time unit you measure the time elapsed is different than the time unit you enter the half-time, decay constant or mean lifetime in.
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