And once that first kernel pops, it will never be a kernel again..is forever changed! ) Teaching example using popcorn to teach radioactive decay "A variety of a chemical element (strictly, of one particular element) which is distinguished from the other varieties of the element by a different mass number but shares the same atomic number and chemical properties (and so occupies the same position in the periodic table)." That definition may not mean anything to them.On the weekend, a tank of radioactive material leaked from the closed Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.While this has prompted concerns about the health of the surrounding Kakadu National Park, this is a good chance to also clear up the differences between "radioactivity" and "radiation".Radioactivity and radiation are often used interchangeably, but they describe different (yet related) processes.Radiocarbon dating is one such type of radiometric dating.
An atom is the smallest particle that can be described as a chemical.
Radioactive decay involves the spontaneous transformation of one element into another.
The only way that this can happen is by changing the number of protons in the nucleus (an element is defined by its number of protons).
Students often struggle with this concept; therefore, it should be stressed that it is impossible to know exactly when each of the radioactive elements in a rock will decay.
Statistical probablity is the only thing we can know exactly.