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The new atom doesn't form the same kinds of chemical bonds that the old one did. It may not even be able to hold the parent atom's place in the compound it finds itself in, which results in an immediate breaking of the chemical bonds that hold the atom to the others in the mineral. (The exact details of this are rather complicated, so I won't go into them here.) When the number of electrons change, the shell structure changes too.So when an atom decays and changes into an atom of a different element, its shell structure changes and it behaves in a different way chemically. That's the sum total of the chemical and physical basis of radiometric dating. Radiometric dating methods are the strongest direct evidence that geologists have for the age of the Earth.When I first became interested in the creation-evolution debate, in late 1994, I looked around for sources that clearly and simply explained what radiometric dating is and why young-Earth creationists are driven to discredit it.(Note that this doesn't mean the half-life of an element is a constant.Different isotopes of the same element can have substantially different half-lives.) It's important to understand that the half-life is a purely statistical measurement. A sample of U238 ten thousand years old will have precisely the same half-life as one ten billion years old.
If we measure how much C14 there currently is, we can tell how much there was when the organism died, and therefore how much has decayed.
Contents: The half-life of a radioactive isotope is defined as the time it takes half of a sample of the element to decay.