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Posted by / 21-Sep-2016 06:39

They each rely on a couple of different (thoroughly verified) principles.

First, that radioactive isotopes have a fixed half-life (totally independent of their environment).

Impurities, such as dissolved air, are either forced out or concentrated in the last region to freeze. It so happens that uranium decays into lead with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

A daughter nuclide is the nuclide that is produced in a radioactive decay process.Since carbon-14 has a half-life on the order of thousands of years, it’s useful for figuring out the age of organic materials that have been independent of the atmosphere for thousands of years. That’s not great: once everything on Earth is peppered with lead, it’s difficult for scientists to do their science.Since uranium-238 (the isotope comprising more than 99% of natural uranium) has a half-life of billions of years, it’s useful for figuring out the age of (among other things) zircons that crystallized billions of years ago. And, not for nothing, it’s also caused a thousandfold increase in lead contamination in the bodies (or bones at least) of everything that breathes and/or eats.Radioactive decay is the process whereby a radionuclide is transformed into a nuclide of another element as a result of the emission of radiation from its nucleus.The terms parent nuclide and daughter nuclide are often used in descriptions of radioactive decay processes.

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Fortunately, the stuff ancient civilization leave lying around tend to be found in clumps called “middens”.