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Provided the number of nuclei is reasonably large, half of the original nuclei should decay during one half-life period.
), the number decreases to half of its original value.
According to NIST scientist emeritus Richard Lindstrom, the variations observed in other experiments may have been due to environmental conditions interfering with the instruments themselves.
"There are always more unknowns in your measurements than you can think of," Lindstrom says.
This is exponential decay, as seen in the graph of the number of nuclei present as a function of time. Radioactive carbon has the same chemistry as stable carbon, and so it mixes into the biosphere, where it is consumed and becomes part of every living organism.Atoms of radioactive isotopes are unstable and decay over time by shooting off particles at a fixed rate, transmuting the material into a more stable substance.For instance, half the mass of carbon-14, an unstable isotope of carbon, will decay into nitrogen-14 over a period of 5,730 years.Recently, however, researchers at Purdue University observed a small (a fraction of a percent), transitory deviation in radioactive decay at the time of a huge solar flare.Data from laboratories in New York and Germany also have shown similarly tiny deviations over the course of a year.
This has led some to suggest that Earth's distance from the sun, which varies during the year and affects the planet's exposure to solar neutrinos, might be related to these anomalies.