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The new atom doesn't form the same kinds of chemical bonds that the old one did. It may not even be able to hold the parent atom's 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. (The exact details of this are rather complicated, so I won't go into them here.) When the number of electrons change, the shell structure changes too.

So when an atom decays and changes into an atom of a different element, its shell structure changes and it behaves in a different way chemically. That's the sum total of the chemical and physical basis of radiometric dating.

Some isotopes 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.

The fourth one is that we know what the concentration of atmospheric C14 was when the organism lived and died.

To start, let's look at one that almost everyone has heard of: radiocarbon dating, AKA "carbon-14 dating" or just "carbon dating." Method 1: Carbon-14 Dating The element carbon occurs naturally in three isotopes: C12, C13, and C14. C14 is also formed continuously from N14 (nitrogen-14) in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Because it's a statistical measurement, there's always a margin of error in the age figure, but if the procedure is done properly, the margin is very small. We must know the original quantity of the parent isotope in order to date our sample radiometrically. In order to do so, we need an isotope that's part of a mineral compound. Because there's a basic law of chemistry that says "Chemical processes like those that form minerals can't distinguish between different isotopes of the same element." This is because an element's chemical behavior depends only on the number of electrons it has, which is the same as its number of protons.

Obviously, the major question here is "how much of the isotope was originally present in our sample? So to a chemical process, U235 and U238 are identical.

If an element has more than one isotope present, and a mineral forms in a magma melt that includes that element, the element's different isotopes will appear in the mineral in precisely the same ratio that they occurred in the environment where and when the mineral was formed. The third and final axiom is that when an atom undergoes radioactive decay, its internal structure and also its chemical behavior change.

Losing or gaining atomic number puts the atom in a different row of the periodic table, and elements in different rows behave in different ways. Well, an atom's chemical activity pattern is a result of its electron shell structure.

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