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The Never-Ending Contamination

Radioactivity and Half-Lives



Author:

Lior M. Burko
School of Science and Technology
Georgia Gwinnett College
lburko@ggc.edu

Abstract:

This case study discusses a possible national security crisis of a terrorist group stealing radioactive materials in an attempt to build and detonate a dirty bomb over a densely populated metropolitan area. Specifically, this case discusses radioactive decay, which has many applications from carbon-14 dating of ancient manuscripts to dating the age of the solar system to radiation sickness. Radioactive decay can be discussed in a number of courses, in physics, chemistry, earth science, health science courses and others. The case study questions cover a range of applications, and instructors can choose a subset of these questions depending on the main interest of their class.

Objectives:
  • Define the concept of half-life.
  • Use radiometric dating, including finding the age of a sample using its half-life, and the current and original
amounts of the material.
  • Describe how we determine the age of the Earth, of other solar system objects, and of the solar system itself.
  • Describe the main effects of radiation on living organisms.
Keywords: radioactivity; dirty bomb; radiation sickness; radioactive dating; carbon dating; half-life; radiometric dating;
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: N/A, Directed
Language: English
Subject Headings: Physics   Environmental Science   Chemistry (General)   Public Health  
Date Posted: 8/11/2016
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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