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Elements occur naturally in the earth, and they can tell us a lot about its past.

Carbon, uranium, and potassium are just a few examples of elements used in radioactive dating.

Just as in the example with uranium, scientists are able to determine the age of a sample by using the ratios of the daughter product compared to the parent.

Also, when dating with carbon-14, scientists compare the amount of carbon-14 to carbon-12.

An isotope is a variation of an element based upon the number of neutrons.

The disintegration of the neutrons within the atom of the element's nucleus is what scientists call radioactivity.

These neutrons can become unstable, and when they do, they release energy and undergo decay. Radioactivity occurs when the nucleus contains an excess amount of neutrons.

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This means that after approximately 4.5 billion years, half of an original sample containing this isotope will decay into its decay product, forming the new isotope, Pb 206 (lead 206).

If another 4.5 billion years were to pass, then half of the remaining half of uranium-238 would also decay, leaving 25% uranium to 75% lead.

Remember, isotopes are variations of elements with a different number of neutrons.

The half-life is reliable in dating artifacts because it's not affected by environmental or chemical factors; it does not change.

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