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The Dating Game
Radioactive Half-Life and Dating Techniques

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Scientists who worked out the geologic column and time scale were challenged by the question of absolute time. They knew the relative time order in which the different systems had formed, but they also wished to know whether the sediments in each system had accumulated during the same length of time. Absolute ages are determined in order tohelp answer such challenging and important questions as the age of the Earth, the age of the ocean, how fast mountain ranges rise, and how long humans have inhabited the Earth.

In this fun (and edible!) lab using M&M's, students will explore the concepts of rdioactive decay and dating. Students generate a radioactive decay table (designed to simplify the math), use their data to plot a decay graph, develop the concept of half-life, and then use the graph to find the age of a mummified seal in Wright Valley Antarctica. In a follow-up exercise, students will solve a mysterious Arctic murder.

The activity is adapted from Darnell Giron's "M&M half-life" in Earth at Hand A collection of arcticles from NSTA's journals. Collected by Sharon M. Stroud and Jeffrey C. Callister

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