Learn how variations in atomic structure form isotopes of an element and how the three natural isotopes of carbon differ from each other. Meet paleoclimatologist Scott Stine, who uses radiocarbon dating to study changes in climate. Find out what it means for an isotope to be radioactive and how the half-life of carbon allows scientists to date organic materials. The different versions are called isotopes.
Let's Model Radioactive Decay to Show How Carbon Dating Works
Radioactive material gets a bad rap, what with radiation and fallout and nuclear waste and all. But it offers some practical uses. One of the coolest OK, maybe the coolest is using radioactive carbon to determine the age of old bones or plants.
Scientists look at half-life decay rates of radioactive isotopes to estimate when a particular atom might decay. A useful application of half-lives is radioactive dating. This has to do with figuring out the age of ancient things. It might take a millisecond, or it might take a century. But if you have a large enough sample, a pattern begins to emerge.