Understanding Radioactivity in Geology: The Basics of Decay
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection
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This activity has benefited from a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop.
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop. Workshop participants were provided with a set of criteria against which they evaluated each others' activities. After the review, the authors developed a plan for revising their activities based on the feedback they received from their peers. To learn more about this review process, see http://serc.carleton.edu/quantskills/review_processes.html#2006.
This page first made public: Jul 23, 2006
One of a collection of PowerPoint/Excel modules designed to reinforce quantitative skills in geologic context. The module explores the exponential decay of radioactive parents through the analogy with popping popcorn. Students build a spreadsheet to calculate the number of unpopped kernels of popcorn as a function of time starting with the probability that a given kernel will pop during a 10-sec interval. The module introduces the mathematics of the exponential function as a modeling function in both analytical and numerical contexts.
- Consider a familiar occurrence of exponential decay in a quantitative way.
- Gain experience in forward modeling of an exponential decay phenomenon.
- Consider the relationship between the decay constant and the probability that a particular parent atom of a radioactive isotope will convert to its radiogenic daughter atom
- Gain experience in fitting a trendline to a column of data.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Teaching Notes and Tips
References and Resources
Foundations of Scientific Knowledge Radioactive Decay
Using Popcorn to Simulate Radioactive Decay
How Does Radioactive Decay Work?