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Radioactive decay and exponential laws | guaranitermal.com
By: Marshall Brain Updated: Mar 31, A child mummy is found high in the Andes and the archaeologist says the child lived more than 2, years ago. How do scientists know how old an object or human remains are? What methods do they use and how do these methods work?
In his article Light Attenuation and Exponential Laws in the last issue of Plus, Ian Garbett discussed the phenomenon of light attenuation, one of the many physical phenomena in which the exponential function crops up. In this second article he describes the phenomenon of radioactive decay, which also obeys an exponential law, and explains how this information allows us to carbon-date artefacts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the previous article, we saw that light attenuation obeys an exponential law. To show this, we needed to make one critical assumption: that for a thin enough slice of matter, the proportion of light getting through the slice was proportional to the thickness of the slice. Exactly the same treatment can be applied to radioactive decay.
Unstable nuclei decay. However, some nuclides decay faster than others. For example, radium and polonium, discovered by the Curies, decay faster than uranium.