Earth, Our Environment - Class Notes
Chapter 1, The Changing Planet - 09
Radioactivity is a property of some atoms that spontaneously (but with a statistical regularity) change the structure of their nucleus.
Radioactivity if uncontrolled, can be a health hazard, or if controlled, radioactivity can be a valuable medical tool.
For purposes of estimating ages of materials, the important aspect of radioactivity is the statistical regularity of the process. That is, the rate at which one group of atomic isotopes or elements converts to another is steady.
- If we know an initial amount of the "parent" isotope, and
- If we can measure the present amount of the "parent" and "daughter" isotopes
- Then we can compute the age of the sample using some simple mathematics.
[ Study Figure 1.19 from the Text ]
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