This lab is designed to augment one of the terrific physics and chemistry demos provided by the PhET Interactive Simulations Internet site of the University of Colorado at Boulder (https://phet.colorado.edu/
The Radioactive Dating Game introduces the concept of radioactive decay and its use in dating once-living and inanimate earth material. The demo simulates the radioactive decay of carbon-14 and uranium-238 into their respective daughter products. The demo is divided into four sections:
Half-life: Use the Bucket o' Atoms to investigate the relationship between the decay of atoms and half-life
Decay Rates: Watch nuclei decay and generate graphs of parent and daughter product amounts; determine the percentages of each product remaining after various half-lives
Measurement: Determine which isotopes are best for measuring the ages of once-living and inanimate material (trees and volcanic rocks) and the starting points for radioactive decay; discern the long-term behavior of radioactive decay and how the amounts slowly change over large periods of time
Dating Game: Measure the ages of a variety of once-living and man-made objects, fossils and rocks; determine the appropriate isotope to use for each object; the students manipulate a slider bar in order to estimate the percent of parent material remaining. This section emphasizes the use of radiometric dating in archaeology and earth history
The lab packet provides an introduction and descriptions of the use of radiation in dating the earth and its material. The progress and history of radioactive discovery is emphasized along with the contributions of various scientists such as Marie Curie, Ernest Rutherford, and William F. Libby. The dating of meteorites, earth rocks, and archaeological discoveries is also included. The packet provides directions and screen images of each section of the demo, along with areas to list data as well as questions tailored for each demo. The lab also includes a set of questions that provide a summary of the main topics. These include a chart of radioactive decay and questions about Pompeii, Meteor Crater, Antarctic ice cores, the Laetoli footprints, and the use of volcanic ash in the absolute dating sedimentary rock layers.