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What is the purpose of radioactive dating
This technique relies on the property of half-life.
Half-life is defined as the time it takes for one-half of a radioactive element to decay into a daughter isotope.
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.
As long as an organism is alive, the amount of C-14 in its cellular structure remains constant.
But when the organism dies, the amount of C-14 begins to decrease.
It can’t be used to determine the age of a moon rock or a meteorite.
For nonliving substances, scientists use other isotopes, such as potassium-40.
Plants absorb C-14 during photosynthesis, so C-14 is incorporated into the cellular structure of plants.
Plants are then eaten by animals, making C-14 a part of the cellular structure of all living things.
As radioactive isotopes of elements decay, they lose their radioactivity and become a brand new element known as a daughter isotope.
By measuring the ratio of the amount of the original radioactive element to the daughter isotope, scientists can determine how many half-lives the element has undergone and from there can figure out the absolute age of the sample.