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You can probably see now that as the sample ages, fewer and fewer parent isotopes will be present in the rock, so the rock will be less and less radioactive. The radioactivity levels are indicated by wiggly arrows; green dots represent parent isotopes (here, K-40) and yellow dots represent daughter isotopes present in the rock at the indicated time after the formation of the rock.Figure 3 shows a graphical representation of this example. Snapshots of the rock are taken after multiples of 1.25 billion years (the half-life time of the parent isotope K-40).Resources provided in the Bibliography enable you to research this topic in more detail.We will explore only the decay processes of interest to geologists.
In this science project you will see for yourself by modeling radioisotope dating with a few rolls of the dice. Retrieved December 20, 2017 from https:// As humans, it seems easy for us to keep track of time lapses, as long as they range from a couple of seconds to a number of years.So, how do geologists use radioactive decay as clocks to measure the age of a sample?Using a technique called radiometric dating, geologists take a sample of the material and measure the number of parent and daughter isotopes present in the sample.Science cannot predict which particular K-40 atom in this sample will decay and which will not during the next 1.25 billion years, but that is OK. It is like flipping a huge amount of coins: you know that the likelihood, or probability, is that you will end up with half of them heads up, but you have no idea which particular one will end up heads, or if even half of them will be heads for sure. Can geologists say that once the amount of K-40 isotopes in the sample has reduced to half its original amount, 1.25 billion years will have gone by?Yes — as long as they use a big enough sample so statistical fluctuations average out.