Fossil dating definition

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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.You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree.Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.When a sample is found, scientists measure the amount of the original or parent isotope and compare it to the amount of the decay product formed.They then count the number of half-lives passed and compute the absolute age of the sample.This means that after approximately 4.5 billion years, half of an original sample containing this isotope will decay into its decay product, forming the new isotope, Pb 206 (lead 206).

Carbon-14 has a half-life of approximately 5,730 years and produces the decay product nitrogen-14.An isotope disintegrates at a constant rate called the half-life --the time it takes for half the atoms of a sample to decay. By counting the number of half-lives and the percentages remaining of parent and daughter isotopes, scientists are able to determine what they call the absolute age of a discovery.Carbon-14 is a specific isotope used in dating materials that were once living.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.

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