Generally, there are four main concepts that students struggle with when thinking about radioactive decay:. Radioactivity and radioactive decay are spontaneous processes. Students often struggle with this concept; therefore, it should be stressed that it is impossible to know exactly when each of the radioactive elements in a rock will decay. Statistical probablity is the only thing we can know exactly. Often students get bogged down in the fact that they don't "understand" how and why radioactive elements decay and miss the whole point of this exercise. If they can begin to comprehend that it is random and spontaneous, they end up feeling less nervous about the whole thing.
Geologists use radiometric dating to estimate how long ago rocks formed, and to infer the ages of fossils contained within those rocks.
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