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It is our principal source of information about the age of the Earth and a significant source of information about rates of evolutionary change.
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In this case, the only daughter nuclides to be found through examination of a sample must have been created since the sample was formed.
When a material incorporates both the parent and daughter nuclides at the time of formation, it may be necessary to assume that the initial proportions of a radioactive substance and its daughter are known.
All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements, each with its own atomic number, indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.
Additionally, elements may exist in different isotopes, with each isotope of an element differing only in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.
The procedures used to isolate and analyze the reaction products must be straightforward and reliable.
If a material that selectively rejects the daughter nuclide is heated, any daughter nuclides that have been accumulated over time will be lost through diffusion, setting the isotopic "clock" to zero.
The possible confounding effects of initial contamination of parent and daughter isotopes have to be considered, as do the effects of any loss or gain of such isotopes since the sample was created.
Additionally, measurement in a mass spectrometer is subject to isotopic interference of other nuclides with the same mass number.
There's a small amount of radioactive carbon-14 in all living organisms.
When they die no new carbon-14 is taken in by the dead organism.
A particular isotope of a particular element is called a nuclide. That is, at some random point in time, an atom of such a nuclide will be transformed into a different nuclide by the process known as radioactive decay.