An isotope is a variant form of a chemical element, containing a different number of neutrons in its nucleus. Most elements exist as several isotopes. Many are stable while others are radioactive, and some may only exist fleetingly before decaying into other elements.
In this Very Short Introduction, Rob Ellam explains how isotopes have proved enormously important across all the sciences and in archaeology. Radioactive isotopes may be familiar from their use in nuclear weapons, nuclear power, and in medicine, as well as in carbon dating. They have been central to establishing the age of the Earth and the origins of the solar system. Combining previous and new research, Ellam provides an overview of the nature of stable and radioactive isotopes, and considers their wide range of modern applications.
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