Conceptual Physics (12th Edition)

Published by Addison-Wesley
ISBN 10: 0321909100
ISBN 13: 978-0-32190-910-7

Chapter 33 - Think and Explain: 82

Answer

No. Yes. No.

Work Step by Step

The half-life of C-14 is 5730 years. If the samples are just a few years old, too little carbon-14 has decayed. It would be difficult to distinguish between, say, organic materials from 5 years ago or 20 years ago. Shorter-lived radioactive isotopes must be used. For samples that are a few thousand years, enough carbon-14 has decayed for the technique to be effective. Radioactive dating is most effective when the ages are of the same order as the half-life of the isotope. If the samples are a few million years old, too much carbon-14 has decayed, and there will hardly be anything left. It would be difficult to distinguish between, say, organic materials from 10 million years ago or 100 million years ago. Longer-lived radioactive isotopes must be used. This is discussed on page 631.
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