Radiometric dating of potassium

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Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. Cosmic rays – high energy particles from beyond the solar system – bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere continually, in the process creating the unstable carbon-14. Because it’s unstable, carbon-14 will eventually decay back to carbon-12 isotopes.

Because the cosmic ray bombardment is fairly constant, there’s a near-constant level of carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in Earth’s atmosphere.

However, radioisotope dating may not work so well in the future.

Anything that dies after the 1940s, when Nuclear bombs, nuclear reactors and open-air nuclear tests started changing things, will be harder to date precisely.

­ ­As soon as a living organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon.

Here’s an example using the simplest atom, hydrogen. Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope of carbon that will eventually decay at a known rate to become carbon-12.

Alcuni nuclidi sono instabili: ad un tempo casuale un isotopo può decadere, trasformandosi in un altro isotopo più stabile.

Questo decadimento è accompagnato con l'emissione di particelle come elettroni (conosciuti anche come particelle beta) e particelle alfa.

those that form during chemical reactions without breaking down).

The unstable or more commonly known radioactive isotopes break down by radioactive decay into other isotopes.

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