How do scientists use half life in radiometric dating

26-Dec-2019 17:47 by 6 Comments

How do scientists use half life in radiometric dating

Potassium-argon dating is very susceptible to resetting because the argon decay products are merely held in place mechanically by surrounding atoms.Argon, an inert gas, is not chemically bonded to neighboring atoms at all, and even minor thermal disturbance allows them to escape.

Let t stand for time and N(t) stand for the number of atoms at time t .

When t = 0, ln N(0) = C Taking exponentials of both sides, we get N(t) = N(0)exp(-Kt) If t = one half life, then N(t)/N(0) = 1/2 = exp(-Kt), and: ln(1/2) = -ln2 = -Kt, so t = ln2 / K So what we do in practice is determine the decay constant and calculate half life from it.

If the decay constant is very small, even tiny amounts of contamination by other radioactive materials can be very significant.

Imagine we have an undiscovered element, Parentium, that has a radioactive isotope, Parentium-123, which decays to stable Daughterium-123.

This is the only way Parentium-123 decays, and there is no other source of Daughterium-123.

We could be sure that a mineral containing parentium originally had no daughterium.

If the mineral contained 1 part per million Parentium-123 and 3 parts per million Daughterium-123, we could be sure all the Daughterium-123 was originally Parentium-123.If the rocks have an interbedded lava flow or volcanic ash bed, it's gold.The older our sample is, the more daughter isotope it will contain relative to the parent.So: The general approach to assessing gain or loss is to look at the isotope abundances in different minerals and see if there's a pattern.If the ratio is constant, we can be pretty sure there's been no gain or loss.Furthermore, Parentium and Daughterium are so different in chemical properties that they don't otherwise occur together.

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