Uses of radiation dating

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Radioactivity is the process whereby unstable atomic nuclei release energetic subatomic particles or electromagnetic radiation (EMR).

This phenomenon can cause one element to turn into another and is partly responsible for the heat of the Earth’s core.

Radioactive decay is a random process, meaning that it is physically impossible to predict whether or not a given atomic nucleus will decay and emit radiation at any given moment.

Instead, it is quantified by half-life, which is the period of time it takes for half of a given sample of nuclei to decay.

None of the elements heavier than lead has any stable isotopes, but lighter elements can also exist in unstable, radioactive, forms, such as carbon-14.

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Since it is easily detected, it is also used to trace the progress and uptake of drugs by organs, or to check that they are functioning correctly.This technique has allowed scientists to measure the age of the Earth.In a health context, all emissions from decaying atomic nuclei, whether particles or EMR, tend to be described as radiation, and they are all potentially hazardous.Although modern nuclear weapons primarily use fusion to release energy, this is still initiated by a fission reaction.Nuclear power stations use carefully controlled fission to produce the heat to drive steam turbines that generate electricity.

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