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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.

Elements exist in different isotopes, with each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.

A process for determining the age of an object by measuring the amount of a given radioactive material it contains.

If one knows how much of this radioactive material was present initially in the object (by determining how much of the material has decayed), and one knows the half-life of the material, one can deduce the age of the object.

The decay of radioisotopes can be used not only to date material but also to time very slow processes, such as the evolution of the Earth's atmosphere.

Anything which changes the relative amounts of the two isotopes (original and daughter) must be noted, and avoided if possible.Radiometric dating (often called radioactive dating) is a way to find out how old something is.The method compares the amount of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope and its decay products, in samples. It is the main way to learn the age of rocks and other geological features, including the age of the Earth itself.Scientists create artificial radioisotopes by bombarding stable atoms of an element with subatomic particles in a nuclear reactor or in an atom smasher, or cyclotron.When the nucleus of a stable atom is charged by bombarding particles, the atom usually becomes unstable, or radioactive, and is said to be “labeled” or “tagged.” See also a radioactive form of an element.

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