But when the organism dies, the amount of C-14 begins to decrease.
Scientists know the half-life of C-14 (5,730 years), so they can figure out how long ago the organism died.
Carbon-14 dating can only be used to determine the age of something that was once alive.
I know can be hard to wrap your head around, so let's model it with a six-sided die. You can use Lego bricks, pennies, beans—anything you can easily count. Every time you roll a one, put that object into a separate pile.
Count the remaining objects and repeat the process until half of them have decayed. It took a while, but we finally got pretty close to 40 tiles left.
This stuff is important to know when using radioactive isotopes as medical tracers, which are taken into the body to allow doctors to trace a pathway or find a blockage, or in cancer treatments.
They need to be active long enough to treat the condition, but they should also have a short enough half-life so that they don’t injure healthy cells and organs.
When an element undergoes radioactive decay, it creates radiation and turns into some other element.
Of course, the best way to understand something is to model it, because the last thing you want to do at home is experiment with something radioactive. Before doing any modeling, you must first understand one key idea: Each atom in a sample of material has an essentially random chance to decay.
a bad rap, what with radiation and fallout and nuclear waste and all. One of the coolest (OK, maybe the coolest) is using radioactive carbon to determine the age of old bones or plants.
To understand this, you must first understand radioactivity and decay.
Even though it decays into nitrogen, new carbon-14 is always being formed when cosmic rays hit atoms high in the atmosphere.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and animals eat plants.
This is exactly how carbon dating works, but with dinosaurs instead of models.