Radioactive dating after 2 half lives
Again, after 30 seconds have passed, dump your coins on a table and remove all the 'heads.' Write down how many remain, and continue this process until all your coins have 'decayed.' Notice at the end how you can never have half of a coin, so when you're down to just one or two coins, you can see the probabilistic nature of them decaying.You may end up shaking one coin for many 30-second half-lives because it just won't decay!If I wait another 5.27 years, half of those two remaining atoms, so one atom, should decay, giving me a total of 15 nickel-60 atoms and one lonely little cobalt-60 atom.Now, we can never have half of an atom, so what happens next?The second thing you may notice is that every 15 minutes you eat half of what you had.This phenomenon takes place every day in many chemical reactions and nuclear reactions, and it is called the half-life, which is the amount of time it takes for half of a sample to react.Scientists measure how much carbon-14 is left in a sample, and they are able to estimate how many half-lives it went through.This will allow them to get an approximate idea of how old the material is. However, many don't pose much of a threat because they have such long half-lives.
If I wait 5.27 years after that, half of the cobalt that remained will decay into nickel-60, giving me 14 atoms of nickel-60 and only two atoms of cobalt-60.
This is where probability makes more of a presence. If it doesn't, then it has a 50% chance of decaying in the next 5.27 years.
If I wait 5.27 more years, there is a 50% chance that the one remaining cobalt-60 atom will decay. One thing that is really neat about half-life is that it can be simulated very easily. As you're waiting, shake up the coins in a container or in your hands so they get all mixed up.
Your popcorn had a half-life of 15 minutes, meaning that every 15 minutes, half of it will get eaten. Cobalt-60 decays down to nickel-60 during beta decay.
Just like your popcorn, radioactive particles have half-lives. But how do we know when the cobalt-60 atoms are going to decay? Initially it may seem like atoms decay randomly, but their probability of decaying can be predicted using an atom's half-life.
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