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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.

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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.

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).

Another possibility is spontaneous fission into two or more nuclides.

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