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An isotope is a variation of an element based upon the number of neutrons.

The disintegration of the neutrons within the atom of the element's nucleus is what scientists call radioactivity.

These are both isotopes of the element carbon present in a constant ratio while an organism is living; however, once an organism dies, the ratio of carbon-14 decreases as the isotope deteriorates.

Radiocarbon dating can only be used to date items back to as far as about 50,000 years old.

Absolute age is just a fancy way of saying definitive or specific age as opposed to the relative age, which only refers to how old or young a substance is in comparison to something else.

To illustrate, let's use the isotope uranium-238, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

Isotopes decay at a constant rate known as the half-life.

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Try it risk-free Ever wonder how scientists concluded the age of the earth to be about 4.6 billion years old or how geologists determined the ages of caverns, rocks, volcanoes, the Himalayas, or even the age of Pompeii bread?

Well, scientists are able to answer all of these wondrous questions and more by use of a process called radiometric, or radioactive, dating.

When scientists find a sample, they measure the amount of the original, or parent, isotope and compare it to the amount of the decay product formed.

They then count the number of half-lives passed and compute the absolute age of the sample.

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