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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.
When an atom varies in the number of neutrons, the variation is called an isotope. During radioactivity, the unstable isotope breaks down and changes into a different substance.
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.
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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.
Since all living things contain carbon, carbon-14 is a common radioisotope used primarily to date items that were once living.
Carbon-14 has a half-life of approximately 5,730 years and produces the decay product nitrogen-14.
Each element is made up of atoms, and within each atom is a central particle called a nucleus.