# What is radioactive dating and how does it work

### How does radioactive dating work? + Example

In. Scientist count back many years, they have different numbers of determining the age of comparing the fixed decay. Radiometric dating work? Scientist count. Debunking the creationist radioactive dating argument. The creationist "argon escape" theory does not support their young earth model.) . Creationists seize upon any isolated reports of improperly run tests and try to categorize them as. Radioactive dating works by measuring the percentage of a radioactive isotope present in a sample.

Radioactive elements "decay" that is, change into other elements by "half lives. The formula for the fraction remaining is one-half raised to the power given by the number of years divided by the half-life in other words raised to a power equal to the number of half-lives.

To determine the fraction still remaining, we must know both the amount now present and also the amount present when the mineral was formed. Contrary to creationist claims, it is possible to make that determination, as the following will explain: By way of background, all atoms of a given element have the same number of protons in the nucleus; however, the number of neutrons in the nucleus can vary.

An atom with the same number of protons in the nucleus but a different number of neutrons is called an isotope. For example, uranium is an isotope of uranium, because it has 3 more neutrons in the nucleus. It has the same number of protons, otherwise it wouldn't be uranium.

The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom is called its atomic number.

The sum of protons plus neutrons is the mass number. We designate a specific group of atoms by using the term "nuclide. The element potassium symbol K has three nuclides, K39, K40, and K Only K40 is radioactive; the other two are stable.

K40 can decay in two different ways: The ratio of calcium formed to argon formed is fixed and known. Therefore the amount of argon formed provides a direct measurement of the amount of potassium present in the specimen when it was originally formed.

Because argon is an inert gas, it is not possible that it might have been in the mineral when it was first formed from molten magma. Any argon present in a mineral containing potassium must have been formed as the result of radioactive decay.

F, the fraction of K40 remaining, is equal to the amount of potassium in the sample, divided by the sum of potassium in the sample plus the calculated amount of potassium required to produce the amount of argon found.

The age can then be calculated from equation 1. In spite of the fact that it is a gas, the argon is trapped in the mineral and can't escape. Creationists claim that argon escape renders age determinations invalid.

## Radiometric Dating Does Work!

However, any escaping argon gas would lead to a determined age younger, not older, than actual. The creationist "argon escape" theory does not support their young earth model. The argon age determination of the mineral can be confirmed by measuring the loss of potassium. In old rocks, there will be less potassium present than was required to form the mineral, because some of it has been transmuted to argon. The decrease in the amount of potassium required to form the original mineral has consistently confirmed the age as determined by the amount of argon formed.

See Carbon 14 Dating in this web site. The nuclide rubidium decays, with a half life of Strontium is a stable element; it does not undergo further radioactive decay.

### Explainer: what is radiocarbon dating and how does it work?

Do not confuse with the highly radioactive isotope, strontium Strontium occurs naturally as a mixture of several nuclides, including the stable isotope strontium If three different strontium-containing minerals form at the same time in the same magma, each strontium containing mineral will have the same ratios of the different strontium nuclides, since all strontium nuclides behave the same chemically. Note that this does not mean that the ratios are the same everywhere on earth. It merely means that the ratios are the same in the particular magma from which the test sample was later taken.

- Radiometric dating

As strontium forms, its ratio to strontium will increase. Strontium is a stable element that does not undergo radioactive change. In addition, it is not formed as the result of a radioactive decay process.

The amount of strontium in a given mineral sample will not change. Therefore the relative amounts of rubidium and strontium can be determined by expressing their ratios to strontium These curves are illustrated in Fig It turns out to be a straight line with a slope of The corresponding half lives for each plotted point are marked on the line and identified.

It can be readily seen from the plots that when this procedure is followed with different amounts of Rb87 in different minerals, if the plotted half life points are connected, a straight line going through the origin is produced.

These lines are called "isochrons". The steeper the slope of the isochron, the more half lives it represents. When the fraction of rubidium is plotted against the fraction of strontium for a number of different minerals from the same magma an isochron is obtained. For instance, the amount varies according to how many cosmic rays reach Earth.

Luckily, we can measure these fluctuations in samples that are dated by other methods. Tree rings can be counted and their radiocarbon content measured.

A huge amount of work is currently underway to extend and improve the calibration curve. In we could only calibrate radiocarbon dates until 26, years. Now the curve extends tentatively to 50, years. Dating advances Radiocarbon dates are presented in two ways because of this complication. The uncalibrated date is given with the unit BP radiocarbon years before The calibrated date is also presented, either in BC or AD or with the unit calBP calibrated before present - before The second difficulty arises from the extremely low abundance of 14C.

## How does radioactive dating work?

Many labs now use an Accelerator Mass Spectrometer AMSa machine that can detect and measure the presence of different isotopes, to count the individual 14C atoms in a sample. Australia has two machines dedicated to radiocarbon analysis, and they are out of reach for much of the developing world.

In addition, samples need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove carbon contamination from glues and soil before dating. This is particularly important for very old samples.

**Physics - Nuclear Physics (12 of 22) What is Radioactive Dating?**

Because of this, radiocarbon chemists are continually developing new methods to more effectively clean materials. These new techniques can have a dramatic effect on chronologies. With the development of a new method of cleaning charcoal called ABOx-SCMichael Bird helped to push back the date of arrival of the first humans in Australia by more than 10, years.

Establishing dates Moving away from techniques, the most exciting thing about radiocarbon is what it reveals about our past and the world we live in. Radiocarbon dating was the first method that allowed archaeologists to place what they found in chronological order without the need for written records or coins. In the 19th and early 20th century incredibly patient and careful archaeologists would link pottery and stone tools in different geographical areas by similarities in shape and patterning.

Then, by using the idea that the styles of objects evolve, becoming increasing elaborate over time, they could place them in order relative to each other - a technique called seriation. In this way large domed tombs known as tholos or beehive tombs in Greece were thought to predate similar structures in the Scottish Island of Maeshowe.

This supported the idea that the classical worlds of Greece and Rome were at the centre of all innovations. Some of the first radiocarbon dates produced showed that the Scottish tombs were thousands of years older than those in Greece. The barbarians of the north were capable of designing complex structures similar to those in the classical world.