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Thus, an atom of carbon-14 (C14), atomic number 6, emits a beta particle and becomes an atom of nitrogen-14 (N14), atomic number 7.

A third, very rare type of radioactive decay is called electron absorption.

The decay rate and therefore the half-life are fixed characteristics of a nuclide. Thats the first axiom of radiometric dating techniques: the half-life of a given nuclide is a constant.

(Note that this doesnt mean the half-life of an element is a constant.

Some nuclides have very long half-lives, measured in billions or even trillions of years.

Others have extremely short half-lives, measured in tenths or hundredths of a second.

In electron absorption, a proton absorbs an electron to become a neutron.

A nuclide of an element, also called an isotope of an element, is an atom of that element that has a specific number of nucleons.

After emission, it quickly picks up two electrons to balance the two protons, and becomes an electrically neutral helium-4 (He4) atom. When an atom emits a beta particle, a neutron inside the nucleus is transformed to a proton.

The mass number doesn't change, but the atomic number goes up by 1.

The new atom doesnt form the same kinds of chemical bonds that the old one did. It may not even be able to hold the parent atoms 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. In the next part of this article, Ill examine several different radiometric dating techniques, and show how the axioms I cited above translate into useful age measurements. C14 is also formed continuously from N14 (nitrogen-14) in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

And since carbon is an essential element in living organisms, C14 appears in all terrestrial ( get C14 from the environment.

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