Start Radioactive decay and dating

Radioactive decay and dating

This feature of nuclear construction produces, groups of elements with the same number of protons but differing numbers of neutrons.

(See Figure 1 below.) Secularists believe that nuclear decay has been a part of the natural world since its formation some 13.8 billion years ago, and the nuclear decay rates for the various radioisotopes have been constant throughout that time.

The process of radioactive decay can be envisioned as an hourglass implanted in a rock suite.

The parent radioisotope would be approximately represented by the sand in the upper chamber and the daughter radioisotope (what an element slowly turns into through decaying) by the sand that accumulates in the lower chamber.

By the mid-1940s, Willard Libby realized that the decay of C research—his life’s work—Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960, and the age of radioactive dating was born.

Before we delve into radioactive decay and its use in dating rocks, let’s review some essential nuclear physics concepts.

The chemical properties of each element are defined by the number of protons it contains in its nucleus and, consequently, the number of corresponding electrons that orbit it.

However, elements beyond hydrogen’s single proton have varying numbers of neutrons that do not necessarily equal the amount of protons in the nucleus.

Due to the extremely short half-lives of the Po isotopes, this would present a serious problem for those wanting to date the rocks at millions or billions of years old.