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Answer Sheet

Name(s)

1. As an example of how radioactive decay works, the TA may lead a small demonstration. Each student will receive one penny and stand up. At this point all of the students are parent isotopes. Every student should then flip their penny. Students whose penny lands heads-up should sit down. These students who are now seated are now daughter isotopes. The remaining standing students should again flip their penny, and students whose penny lands heads-up should sit down to become daughter isotopes.

a. How many students started out standing?

All of them

b. How many daughter isotopes were produced after the first flip of the pennies?

About Half

c. How many parent isotopes remained after the second flip of the pennies?

About a quarter

d. How well does each flip (or half-life) actually eliminate half of the remaining parent isotopes?

Decently well

e. Would d.) be improved by making the sample population smaller or larger? Why?

D would be improved by making it larger because larger numbers represent more general populations. Likelihood of eliminating half would be greater.

2.) Sometimes numerical dates are referred to as ‘absolute dates’. Why do you suppose this is? Why might these numerical dates not actually be absolute dates?

Because it gives us a number but there is still a range on the amount of error. Because absolute dates through radioactive dating are really only for igneous/metamorphic rocks and because heat and pressure affect the dates, therefore not making them absolute.

3.) In order to get an accurate numerical date, geologists require on average 0.5-1 grams of material. Why might this be difficult to obtain from some recent (<5,000 years old) volcanic ashes or other thinly bedded deposits?

It’s hard to collect that amount because the ash is so thin that it is easily distributed by wind and water can distribute the ash, making it hard to gather .5-1 grams of the