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For dating minerals and rocks, investigators commonly use the following couplets of parent and daughter isotopes: thorium-232–lead-208, uranium-235–lead-207, samarium-147–neodymium-143, rubidium-87–strontium-87, potassium-40–argon-40, and argon-40–argon-39.

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Recent puzzling observations of tiny variations in nuclear decay rates have led some to question the science behind carbon-14 dating and similar techniques.

However scientists tested the hypothesis that solar radiation might affect the rate at which radioactive elements decay and found no detectable effect.

Recently, however, researchers at Purdue University observed a small (a fraction of a percent), transitory deviation in radioactive decay at the time of a huge solar flare.

Data from laboratories in New York and Germany also have shown similarly tiny deviations over the course of a year.

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Atoms of radioactive isotopes are unstable and decay over time by shooting off particles at a fixed rate, transmuting the material into a more stable substance.

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