Numerical age dating

11 Aug

The isotope originating from the decay (nitrogen-14 in the case of radiocarbon) is called the daughter, while the original radioactive isotope (like carbon-14) is called the parent.

We have an activity in one of the PSI workshops "Exploring the Terrestrial Planets," that deals with this topic.

So, you can use the radioactive elements to measure the age of rocks and minerals. Their useful range is from about 1/10 their half-life (the time it takes for half of the radioactive element/isotope-- the parent, to convert into a non-radioactive element/isotope-- the daughter) to 10 times their half-life. You can use this to measure the age of a rock from about 128 million years to more than 10 billion years (the Solar System is 4.56 billion years old).

Earth) and what could happen to Earth in an extreme case, etc.

From Wikipedia, radioactive decay is the process in which an unstable atomic nucleus spontaneously loses energy by emitting ionizing particles and radiation.

These are the surfaces that we can get absolute ages for.For the others, one can only use relative age dating (such as counting craters) in order to estimate the age of the surface and the history of the surface.So, Carbon-14 can only measure things up to just over 50,000 years old, great for determining when someone built a wood fire, but not good for determining the age of a meteorite. It occurs whenever an atom has an unbalanced number of protons and neutrons in its nucleus.The number of protons usually determines the element the atom belongs to and it is fixed for any particular element.