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), however, is a radioactive isotope, the other two being stable.
More than 1,000 radioactive isotopes of the various elements are known.
Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.
When a radioactive isotope is added in small amounts to comparatively large quantities of the stable element, it behaves exactly the same as the ordinary isotope chemically; it can, however, be traced with a Only a small fraction of the isotopes are known to be stable indefinitely.
All the others disintegrate spontaneously with the release of energy by processes broadly designated as radioactive decay.
The energy given off in this reaction is carried by an x-ray photon, which is represented by the symbol hv, where h is Planck's constant and v is the frequency of the x-ray.
The product of this reaction can be predicted, once again, by assuming that mass and charge are conserved. They rapidly lose their kinetic energy as they pass through matter.
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It can be used to date rocks that formed from about 1 million years to over 4.5 billion years ago with routine precisions in the 0.1–1 percent range.