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A radioactive element is one with an unstable nucleus, which radiates alpha, beta or gamma radiation and gets converted to a stable element.This article has a comprehensive list of radioactive elements and their properties.All elements with 84 or more protons are unstable; they eventually undergo decay.
Rutherford applied the principle of a radioactive element's half-life to studies of age determination of rocks by measuring the decay period of radium to lead-206.
Half-life is constant over the lifetime of an exponentially decaying quantity, and it is a characteristic unit for the exponential decay equation.
The term is also used more generally to characterize any type of exponential or non-exponential decay.
For example, the medical sciences refer to the biological half-life of drugs and other chemicals in the human body. The original term, half-life period, dating to Ernest Rutherford's discovery of the principle in 1907, was shortened to half-life in the early 1950s.
The name 'radioactive' may suggest to you that radioactive elements radiate radio waves, but unfortunately that is not so!