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They are both carbon, and they both behave chemically as though they are carbon, but they have a different atomic weight.

So they are said to be the same element, namely carbon, but to be different isotopes of carbon.

The fact that it has eight neutrons is revealed by the little "14" written above and to the left of the "C": this is the atomic weight of the isotope, and so since the atomic weight is the number of protons plus the number of neutrons, and since all carbon atoms have six protons, this tells us that this isotope of carbon must have eight neutrons.

Radioactive decay may be defined as any spontaneous event which changes the state of the nucleus, emitting energy from the nucleus in the process.

Not all isotopes undergo decay: those that do are called unstable isotopes (or radioactive isotopes) and conversely those that don't are called stable. As we can see from this example, it is perfectly possible for different isotopes of the same element to differ in their stability.

The reader should note that when a parent atom decays to a daughter atom, the daughter is not necessarily stable; sometimes the daughter will undergo further decay. It is important to understand how and why radioactive decay takes place.

It is obvious from this example that the exactness of our knowledge of the half-life will depend on the exactness with which we can measure the initial size of the sample and the rate at which it decays.

Those isotopes which are produced by radioactive decay are said to be radiogenic.

The number of electrons is equal to the number of protons.

The number of protons in an atom is its atomic number, and the sum of the protons and the neutrons gives its atomic weight.

An atom with six protons and eight neutrons is written as C.

The fact that it has six protons is revealed by the "C", which is the chemical symbol for carbon; by definition, all carbon atoms have six protons.

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According to physicists, radioactive decay occurs at random: an atom of (for example) Ne (neon-22) just because its number has come up. Consider, by analogy, a man playing Russian Roulette with a six-shooter.

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