The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Can you tell the age of an atom?  (Read 5233 times)

Offline taupo19

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« on: 24/05/2009 18:41:27 »
As I understand it Atoms are forever - Is this correct? Do atoms have an age? Is there anyway of telling how old an atom in my body (say of carbon) is?
« Last Edit: 24/05/2009 22:27:00 by chris »


 

Offline Vern

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2072
    • View Profile
    • Photonics
Re: Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #1 on: 24/05/2009 19:26:28 »
Some atoms decay into other types of atoms, but we usually think of stable atoms as permanent. Any atom can be reduced to electromagnetic energy when enough force is applied.
 

Offline Soul Surfer

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3345
  • keep banging the rocks together
    • View Profile
    • ian kimber's web workspace
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #2 on: 24/05/2009 22:45:53 »
No there is absolutely no way that an atom has an age also all atoms of the same type and in the same energy state are absolutely identical and cannot be distinguished from each other.

It is of course possible for radioactive elements to decay by e,mitting particles or photons and excited atoms to change their energy state towards their ground state by emitting photons but these are random processes that have a half life but it is not possible to know if an atom will decay at any particular moment.
 

Offline taupo19

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #3 on: 24/05/2009 23:30:57 »
The my question would be that carbon dating is done through measuring the decay of a carbon 14 atom - is this the case?  Why is this atom different?

Is it likely in the future that we'll be able to measure the age of an atom or am I completely misunderstanding the issues here.

Thanks for your replies..
 

Offline Soul Surfer

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3345
  • keep banging the rocks together
    • View Profile
    • ian kimber's web workspace
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #4 on: 25/05/2009 08:39:42 »
It is only through the decay of a large number of carbon 14 atoms that the age can be determined.  Living material because of its continual biological turnover of atoms has a stable balance between the number of carbon 16 atoms and carbon 14 atoms when it dies this balance is no longer maintained and the carbon 14 atoms decay with a half life of around 5000 years after 5000 years the carbon14 decays have slowed down to half the rate of living material.  this allows formerly living material to be dated reasonably accurately over about 10,000 years
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8648
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #5 on: 25/05/2009 10:15:22 »
There are two odd things about carbon 14 that let us use it as a "clock". Firstly it is radioactive and decays at a constant rate. Secondly it is made in the upper atmosphere as a result of interactions with high speed particles from the sun.
That means that the amount of C14 in the atmosphere is roughly constant over time but onece you stop breathing and eating your remains no longer get "topped up" with C14 so the amount left starts to fall.
Since you know what the initial level was and you can measure how much it has fallen you can work out how long ago something died.
 

Offline taupo19

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #6 on: 25/05/2009 11:25:17 »
Very interesting guys and gals - so when a Carbon 14 atom is created through interaction with the Suns particles there is no 'indicator' of when it happened? Crazy questions I know but it's all leading to something I promise - :)
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8648
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #7 on: 25/05/2009 13:06:07 »
There's no way to know the age od an individual atom. They are too small to put "sell by" dates on.
 

Offline Vern

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2072
    • View Profile
    • Photonics
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #8 on: 25/05/2009 14:38:48 »
Very interesting guys and gals - so when a Carbon 14 atom is created through interaction with the Suns particles there is no 'indicator' of when it happened? Crazy questions I know but it's all leading to something I promise - :)
No indicator, except that the C14 has a half life of a few thousand years. It then becomes a regular garden-variety C12 or C13 atom.
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8648
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #9 on: 25/05/2009 19:20:03 »
Very interesting guys and gals - so when a Carbon 14 atom is created through interaction with the Suns particles there is no 'indicator' of when it happened? Crazy questions I know but it's all leading to something I promise - :)
No indicator, except that the C14 has a half life of a few thousand years. It then becomes a regular garden-variety C12 or C13 atom.
No, it doesn't.
 

Offline Vern

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2072
    • View Profile
    • Photonics
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #10 on: 25/05/2009 19:50:25 »
Oops; you're right. It is nitrogen-14. Sorry about that; I'm glad you're around to keep me honest. :)

Quote from: Wiki
There are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon on Earth: 99% of the carbon is carbon-12, 1% is carbon-13, and carbon-14 occurs in trace amounts, e.g. making up as much as 1 part per trillion (0.0000000001%) of the carbon in the atmosphere. The half-life of carbon-14 is 5,73040 years. It decays into nitrogen-14 through beta decay.[3] The activity of the modern radiocarbon standard[4] is about 14 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per gram carbon.[5]
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 12656
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #11 on: 26/05/2009 13:01:28 »
Very interesting guys and gals - so when a Carbon 14 atom is created through interaction with the Suns particles there is no 'indicator' of when it happened? Crazy questions I know but it's all leading to something I promise - :)
No indicator, except that the C14 has a half life of a few thousand years. It then becomes a regular garden-variety C12 or C13 atom.
No, it doesn't.

Well that told him!
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8648
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #12 on: 26/05/2009 15:36:21 »
Hopefully it told everyone which, after all, is the point of a science site.
 

Offline taupo19

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #13 on: 26/05/2009 17:31:31 »
So to sum up, and thanks for all your answers by the way, atoms can be 'created' through interaction - destroyed through the same but have no 'life span' as far as we can tell..Atoms are forever once created - Can this be the case? Is anything forever?
 

Offline syhprum

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3813
  • Thanked: 19 times
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #14 on: 28/05/2009 20:13:45 »
It has been suggested that Protons have a life of 10^35 years but experiment has failed to prove this.
 

Ethos

  • Guest
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #15 on: 28/05/2009 20:38:02 »
It has been suggested that Protons have a life of 10^35 years but experiment has failed to prove this.
And if this is true, atoms will age and eventually cease to exist in their present form. This is an extremely interesting question, and one that deserves a lot more thought.
 

Offline taupo19

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #16 on: 29/05/2009 00:23:02 »
Thanks for the above comments - something tells me that everything has a cycle  - a beginning and an end and a beginning.

Keep 'em coming!
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Can you tell the age of an atom?
« Reply #16 on: 29/05/2009 00:23:02 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums