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If I wait another 5.27 years, half of those two remaining atoms, so one atom, should decay, giving me a total of 15 nickel-60 atoms and one lonely little cobalt-60 atom.

In this lesson, we are going to focus on the half-life, a way of measuring the probability that a particle will react.

Imagine you're getting settled in to watch the new action film at your local theater.

Or you may be down to four coins, and all of them come up as heads.

You should quickly see that there is no way of being able to predict exactly what will happen during each shake, but you can make good predictions about what should happen.

Scientists measure how much carbon-14 is left in a sample, and they are able to estimate how many half-lives it went through.

This will allow them to get an approximate idea of how old the material is. However, many don't pose much of a threat because they have such long half-lives.

Try it risk-free What causes a radioactive particle to decay?

We'll never really know, but our best guess lies in probability.

The half-life of a radioactive isotope is the time it takes for half of the sample to react, or decay.

This time can range anywhere from a portion of a second to thousands of years depending on the identity of the starting isotope.

Your popcorn had a half-life of 15 minutes, meaning that every 15 minutes, half of it will get eaten. Cobalt-60 decays down to nickel-60 during beta decay.