How does radioactive dating help determine the age of fossils

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Another way of expressing this is the half-life period (given the symbol T).The half-life is the time it takes for half of the parent atoms to decay.In other words, half (50%) of the Carbon-14 you started with has decayed into the daughter isotope Nitrogen-14.However, your readout from your radioactivity measuring instrument says you have only 25% Carbon-14 and 75% Nitrogen-14, so your fossil must have been through more than one half-life.Now it is time to put those math skills to good use.At one half-life, you would have approximately 50% Carbon-14 and 50% Nitrogen-14.

Either a whole rock or a single mineral grain can be dated.One way that helps scientists place fossils into the correct era on the Geologic Time Scale is by using radiometric dating.Also called absolute dating, scientists use the decay of radioactive elements within the fossils or the rocks around the fossils to determine the age of the organism that was preserved.Below is a chart of commonly used radiometric isotopes, their half-lives, and the daughter isotopes they decay into.Let's say you found a fossil you think to be a human skeleton.

After two half-lives, another half of your leftover Carbon-14 would have decayed into Nitrogen-14.

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