Role of radioactive elements in dating events and artifacts
So, to understand this process, we need to know that an alpha particle is two protons and two neutrons bound together, which is the same as a helium nucleus.
In other words, an alpha particle is a helium nucleus.
We call the unstable nuclide that undergoes radioactive decay the parent nuclide and the nuclide that results from the radioactive decay the daughter nuclide.
This is a fairly easy concept to remember because it is as if the original nuclide is giving birth to the new nuclide, much like a human parent and daughter relationship.
When they do, they release energy and get transformed into different nuclides.
It's as if the nucleus is feeling too full of energy and it has to get rid of some, much like a hyperactive child who is so full of energy that he cannot stay seated in his chair.
By examining the object's relation to layers of deposits in the area, and by comparing the object to others found at the site, archaeologists can estimate when the object arrived at the site.We know that elements can exist as isotopes, which means that their atomic nuclei contain the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons.Specially defined isotopes, called nuclides, can be unstable and therefore undergo radioactive decay.Carbon-14, or radiocarbon, is a naturally occurring radioactive isotope that forms when cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere strike nitrogen molecules, which then oxidize to become carbon dioxide.Green plants absorb the carbon dioxide, so the population of carbon-14 molecules is continually replenished until the plant dies.
Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years, meaning that every 5,700 years or so the object loses half its carbon-14.