Definition of radiocarbon dating
An isotope is a variation of an element based upon the number of neutrons.
The disintegration of the neutrons within the atom of the element's nucleus is what scientists call radioactivity.
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Remember, isotopes are variations of elements with a different number of neutrons.
The half-life is reliable in dating artifacts because it's not affected by environmental or chemical factors; it does not change.
These are both isotopes of the element carbon present in a constant ratio while an organism is living; however, once an organism dies, the ratio of carbon-14 decreases as the isotope deteriorates.
Radiocarbon dating can only be used to date items back to as far as about 50,000 years old.
If a scientist were to compute this, he or she would say two half-lives went by at a rate of 4.5 billion years per half-life; therefore, the sample is approximately 2 times 4.5 billion, or 9 billion years old. So you see, earth scientists are able to use the half-lives of isotopes to date materials back to thousands, millions, and even to billions of years old.
The half-life is so predictable that it is also referred to as an atomic clock.
A new, more stable isotope, called the decay, or daughter product, takes its place.
The isotope doesn't actually deteriorate; it just changes into something else.
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