The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.

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So these biota are much more difficult to date by Carbon-14 methods.[In a laboratory we used Carbon-11 with a half-life of 20min for plant studies.

This made for snappy transit between manufacture and experiment!

When scientists use radiocarbon dating, they compensate for this based on other observations that tell us what the ratio was over time.

Carbon-14 is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere by the absorption of a thermal neutron (created by cosmic rays) by an ordinary Nitrogen-14 atom, producing Carbon-14 and a stray proton.

So, if you know the radioactive isotope found in a substance and the isotope's half-life, you can calculate the age of the substance. Well, a simple explanation is that it is the time required for a quantity to fall to half of its starting value.

So, you might say that the 'full-life' of a radioactive isotope ends when it has given off all of its radiation and reaches a point of being non-radioactive.Free 5-day trial Radiometric dating is used to estimate the age of rocks and other objects based on the fixed decay rate of radioactive isotopes.Learn about half-life and how it is used in different dating methods, such as uranium-lead dating and radiocarbon dating, in this video lesson. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows.In the atmosphere, it disperses sufficiently rapidly (a few decades perhaps), that there is not much delay between its production and the absorption by a plant.In the ocean, the picture is quite different, with dispersion times measured perhaps in centuries before its absorption by a shellfish say.] Carbon-14 is an isotope of carbon, with carbon-12 being the primary isotope.