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For nonliving substances, scientists use other isotopes, such as potassium-40.
An age could be estimated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in the sample and comparing this against an internationally used reference standard.
Knowing about half-lives is important because it enables you to determine when a sample of radioactive material is safe to handle.
No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.
This stuff is important to know when using radioactive isotopes as medical tracers, which are taken into the body to allow doctors to trace a pathway or find a blockage, or in cancer treatments.
They need to be active long enough to treat the condition, but they should also have a short enough half-life so that they don’t injure healthy cells and organs.
Carbon-14 dating can be used on objects ranging from a few hundred years old to 50,000 years old.
Libby and others (University of Chicago) devised a method of estimating the age of organic material based on the decay rate of carbon-14.