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they can figure out how long ago the organism died. This decay is an example of an exponential decay, shown in the figure below. The rule is that a sample is safe when its radioactivity has dropped below detection limits. So, if radioactive iodine-131 (which has a half-life of 8 days) is injected into the body to treat thyroid cancer, itll be gone in 10 half-lives, or 80 days. This process is shown in the following table.

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This has to do with figuring out the age of ancient things. Half-Life, percent of Radioactive Isotope Remaining 0, the amount of time it takes for one-half of a sample to decay is called the half-life. For example, you cant find the remaining amount of an isotope.5 half-lives by finding the midpoint between 7 and 8 half-lives. For nonliving substances, scientists use other isotopes, such as potassium-40). As long as an organism is alive, the amount of C-14 in its cellular structure remains constant. And that occurs at 10 half-lives. Theres simply no way to tell. Safe handling of radioactive material, knowing about half-lives is important because it enables you to determine when a sample of radioactive material is safe to handle.

But if you have a large enough sample, a pattern begins to emerge. Radioactive dating is helpful for figuring out the age of ancient things. It cant be used to determine the age of a moon rock or a meteorite. It might take a millisecond, or it might take a century.