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For most radioactive nuclides, the half-life depends solely on nuclear properties and is essentially a constant.It is not affected by external factors such as temperature, pressure, chemical environment, or presence of a magnetic or electric field.A particular isotope of a particular element is called a nuclide. That is, at some point in time, an atom of such a nuclide will undergo radioactive decay and spontaneously transform into a different nuclide.This transformation may be accomplished in a number of different ways, including alpha decay (emission of alpha particles) and beta decay (electron emission, positron emission, or electron capture).
The basic equation of radiometric dating requires that neither the parent nuclide nor the daughter product can enter or leave the material after its formation.The temperature at which this happens is known as the closure temperature or blocking temperature and is specific to a particular material and isotopic system.These temperatures are experimentally determined in the lab by artificially resetting sample minerals using a high-temperature furnace.All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements, each with its own atomic number, indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.
Additionally, elements may exist in different isotopes, with each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.In these cases, usually the half-life of interest in radiometric dating is the longest one in the chain, which is the rate-limiting factor in the ultimate transformation of the radioactive nuclide into its stable daughter.