MadSci Network: Science History
Query:

Re: one use of radioactive isotope in science

Date: Sun Oct 7 10:02:20 2001
Posted By: Everett Rubel, Degree in Physics
Area of science: Science History
ID: 998788955.Sh
Message:

Hi Tara,

Thanks for the question. There are many uses of isotopes in science.

There are entire fields of science that focus on the properties of isotopes. An example would be nuclear spectroscopy. This field uses pure or nearly pure isotopes for experiments and also creates isotopes for study.

Isotopes are also used in medical research. You could look up the terms "positron emission tomography" or "doubly labelled water" to get some idea of how some isotopes are used in this field.

A very common use of isotopes is to find out the age of objects. Here is a search that I did on "carbon dating" on the MadSci archives:

MadSci Search Results for carbon dating


Your query matched 34 files.
Index searched: MadSci Archives Area: All areas Grade: All grades.

1. Earth Sciences: VRD - carbon dating, is it the most sensitive method? , Hui-Chen Hsu, Wed Mar 15 15:58:41 2000
2. Evolution: how is carbon dating done , No name entered., 4-6 Sun Mar 14 16:46:51 1999
3. Earth Sciences: Carbon dating and flooding, Natalie, undergrad Thu Sep 16 22:20:51 1999
4. Chemistry: How can you be sure of the amount of carbon that enters an organisn's body?, Katie, 7-9 Mon Oct 4 17:17:06 1999
5. Chemistry: Re: How can you be sure of the amount of carbon that enters an organisn's body?, Dan Berger, Faculty Chemistry/Science, Bluffton College Wed Oct 6 11:20:07 1999
Line: Re: How can you be sure of the amount of carbon that enters an organisn's body?
Line: (939227963.Ch.q.html)Re: How can you be sure of the amount of carbon that enters an organisn's body?
Line: How can you be sure of the amount of carbon that enters an organisn's body?
Line: In carbon-14 dating, a certain type of gun or whatever is hot at an
Line: organism to measure the amount of carbon right? While the half life of
6. Earth Sciences: Re: Is it safe to keep volcanic rocks/materials in one's posssession?, Jeff Yap, Materials Engineer Tue Aug 28 16:25:10 2001
Line: Carbon-14 dating is only good up to 60,000 years ago. Any older than
Line: a small amount of radioactive Carbon-14 in your body right now, but it's
Line: rocks themselves, Geologists use Argon-Argon dating, which is good for
Line: Radiocarbon dating WEBinfo
Line: Volcanic/Glacier Radiocarbon Dating
7. Science History: Re: Around about what time was radioactive dating invented., Eric Maass, Operations Manager, semiconductors / communication products Sat Apr 3 07:05:44 1999
Line: Re: Around about what time was radioactive dating invented.
Line: (923326508.Sh.q.html)Re: Around about what time was radioactive dating invented.
Line: William Libby developed the carbon-14 dating method in 1947, and received
Line: the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960. For more information on carbon-14
Line: dating, please
8. Earth Sciences: Re: How do we know with precision, how old a rock is?, David Kopaska-Merkel, Staff Hydrogeology Division, Geological Survey of Alabama Mon Nov 30 11:23:45 1998
Line: Radiometric age dating depends on the fact that radioactive isotopes decay
Line: Carbon-14 decays rapidly, and is useful to date objects thousands to a few
Line: lead, and this decay series is useful for dating rocks a few million to
9. Earth Sciences : Re: Is radiocarbon dating the best current method available? Why/Whynot?, Thomas M. Greiner, faculty, Anatomy / Physical Anthropology, New York Chiropractic College Thu Oct 23 14:10:00 1997
Line: Re: Is radiocarbon dating the best current method available? Why/Whynot?
Line: (877696988.Es.q.html)Re: Is radiocarbon dating the best current method available? Why/Whynot?
Line: Is radiocarbon dating the best current method available?
Line: Radiocarbon dating is based on the fact that the carbon atom is
Line: makes an assumption that the ratio between radioactive carbon (C14) and
10. Physics: Re: Explain how C-14 is used to determine the age of historic artifacts., John Link, Physics Wed Apr 22 08:12:33 1998
Line: search on the words "carbon 14 dating" at the search
11. Earth Sciences: Re: Is it possible to tell the age of groundwater, David Kopaska-Merkel, Staff Hydrogeology Division, Geological Survey of Alabama Wed Nov 8 15:53:24 2000
Line: carbon-14 dating works well. For water that was last on the surface during
Line: dating ground water can be tricky, and it is not something I have ever
Line: dating ground water, but there should be a government agency in New
12. Other: Re: How does science explain the appearance of a face on the Shorud of Turin, Dan Berger, Faculty Chemistry/Science, Bluffton College Wed Sep 6 11:49:13 2000
Line: href="http://shroud.com/c14debat.htm)carbon-14 dating problem; a
Line: radiocarbon dating performed in 1988 gave a late medieval date (AD 1325
13. Earth Sciences: Re: How long does it take to make a diamond form out of a rock?, David Smith, Faculty Geology, Environmental Science Tue Jan 23 10:00:42 2001
Line: dating. They are almost pure carbon, and are much too old for radiocarbon
Line: dating. An internet search I did revealed some new work, published in
Line: period of more than 300 million years. This work was done by dating
Line: rate may be highly variable depending on the local abundance of carbon
14. Biochemistry: Re: how will the decay of a carbon 14 in a amino acid affect the organism?, Mike Conrad, Post-doc/Fellow, Microbiology, UNC Fri Mar 10 01:29:28 2000
Line: Re: how will the decay of a carbon 14 in a amino acid affect the organism?
Line: (952789876.Bc.q.html)Re: how will the decay of a carbon 14 in a amino acid affect the organism?
Line: radioactive atom disintegrates. Briefly, in an amino acid (alpha carbon),
Line: C14 has a half life of 5730 years. About one carbon atom per trillion
Line: for dating, the less C14 left in a sample, the older it is. But note
15. Earth Sciences: Re: VRD - carbon dating, is it the most sensitive method? , John Christie, Faculty, School of Chemistry, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia Thu Mar 16 15:19:24 2000
Line: Re: VRD - carbon dating, is it the most sensitive method?
Line: (953336582.Es.q.html)Re: VRD - carbon dating, is it the most sensitive method?
Line: There are very many different dating methods available. Some, like carbon dating,
Line: Some of the problems in using any scientific dating method are:
Line: that substance. In the case of radiocarbon dating, the object must contain carbon
16. Evolution: How can we tell an extinct species life span?, Joe, No grade entered. Sun Oct 15 16:23:11 2000
Line: I've heard from my teacher that carbon dating tells us from time of death
17. Evolution: How do scientists date fossils so old, though the Earth is only 12,000? , Jonathan , 10-12 Tue Oct 12 23:09:50 1999
Line: Carbon-dating can only test to an extent of about 70,000 years.
18. Chemistry : Re: Are radioactive dating methods really as accurate as they appear to be?, John Christie, Faculty, School of Physical Chemistry, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia Wed Jan 22 00:58:08 1997
Line: Re: Are radioactive dating methods really as accurate as they appear to be?
Line: (851508824.Ch.q.html)Re: Are radioactive dating methods really as accurate as they appear to be?
Line: Radioactive dating methods are fairly accurate - certainly much more so than
Line: 1. Each dating method is based on several assumptions - what species are
Line: 2. Each dating method has an optimum age where the fractional error is least.
19. Earth Sciences: Re: how radioactive dating is used to find the age of Vishnu Schist, Ron Morgan, Staff, Health Physics/Radiological Engineering, Los Alamos National Laboratory Fri Jan 14 10:31:56 2000
Line: Re: how radioactive dating is used to find the age of Vishnu Schist
Line: (947892987.Es.q.html)Re: how radioactive dating is used to find the age of Vishnu Schist
Line: how it has been dated. However, radioactive dating in general is applied
Line: Several common elements (e.g. Carbon, Argon, Potassium, etc.) are somewhat
Line: Elements behave differently in the biosphere (Carbon behaves differently
20. Earth Sciences: Re: Age of fossil: Y10G, John Christie, Faculty, School of Chemistry, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia Sun Feb 13 16:03:28 2000
Line: This is a very perceptive question. If we are dating something using radioactive
Line: "carbon dating" or "uranium dating" or similar strings into the search engine.
Line: about carbon dating, and an
Line: dating
Line: The important point is that any of the radiometric dating methods measure the
21. Chemistry: Re: What practical purpose does the existence of isotopes serve?, Ron Morgan, Staff, Health Physics/Radiological Engineering, Los Alamos National Laboratory Wed Feb 21 13:39:14 2001
Line: The carbon cycle in the sun, for instance, (and all other stars, of
Line: course) requires both carbon 12 and carbon 13 to function. In the absence
Line: problem with the carbon cycle, AND we could pick-and-choose the isotopes
Line: ignorant (isotopic dating techniques, such as carbon, uranium, etc. would
22. Environment : Re: What are the effects of acid rain on outside artwork? , John Christie, Faculty, School of Chemistry, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia Tue Sep 12 19:21:30 2000
Line: attacked by acids, producing soluble salts and carbon dioxide. Marble erodes
Line: relief sculptures on friezes of the buildings of the Acropolis, dating back
23. Engineering: Re: how does math relate to what a nuclear scientist does?, Michael Kay, Staff, Chem, Haz. Mat Mgmt, Health Physics, Nuclear Science, AMBRY, Inc Tue Jan 23 00:25:59 2001
Line: 30,000 years ago through the radioactive isotope of carbon, Carbon-14
Line: living organism dies, it stops taking in the Carbon-14, and the amount
Line: present starts to decay. By carefully measuring the amount of Carbon-14
Line: Radiocarbon Dating.
24. Earth Sciences: Re: Carbon dating and flooding, Ron Morgan, Staff, Health Physics/Radiological Engineering, Los Alamos National Laboratory Fri Oct 8 13:37:51 1999
Line: Re: carbon dating and flooding
Line: (939419224.Es.q.html)Re: carbon dating and flooding
Line: carbon dating is based on the ratio of carbon 14 to the total amount of
Line: carbon in a sample. The method assumes that, when an organism dies, the
Line: organism STOPS incorporating carbon into it's structure (body). This is
25. Earth Sciences : RE: Dating of Rocks, Nick Bourbaki, Collective Enigma Elucidator Sun Aug 4 20:55:05 1996
Line: Re: dating of Rocks
Line: (829087716.Es.q.html)Re: dating of Rocks
Line: The dating of rocks depends entirely on the fact that the atoms
Line: have been in existence for quite some time. is the
Line: most commonly employed method for dating fossils and bones. It

Isotopes have many more uses in science than I have mentioned here. I hope this is enough of a sample to get you started.

Best Regards,

Everett


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