A Demonstration of Half-Life
Grade Level: 7th to 9th; Type: Chemistry/Physical Science
In this experiment you will simulate radioactive decay in order to gain an understanding of the basics of half-life.
- In radioactive decay, it is not known which particular atom is going to decay, but it is known that a certain percentage will decay in a given amount of time. Does your demonstration result show this?
- Will all of the carbon-14 in nature eventually disappear? Explain your answer.
- 200 tiny pieces of cut paper with a different color on each side
- Choose the color of one of the sides of the paper to simulate that the paper has “decayed.”
- Place the paper in the cup, cover the top with your hand, and shake for 10 seconds.
- Pour all the paper out.
- Remove the paper that has been “decayed” and place the paper that has not “decayed” back in the cup.
- Repeat steps 2-4 up to seven more times for a total of eight tosses. If all the paper has all decayed before eight tosses, that is okay.
- Use a table to track the number of bits of paper removed per toss.
Terms/Concepts: Carbon–14, Radioactive Dating, Half-Life
Radioactive Dating: http://library.thinkquest.org/3471/radioactive_dating.html.
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