Carbon dating work

Carbon-14 is continually produced in the upper atmosphere as neutrons, which are by-products of cosmic rays, and is then absorbed by nitrogen atoms.

Carbon-14 atoms react with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, and carbon-14 is incorporated into the food chain when plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.

By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.

Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.

Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.

The carbon-14 method was developed by the American physicist Willard F. It has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from 500 to 50,000 years old.

Above-ground nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in a dramatic increase of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. Nuclear tests released lots of neutrons into the atmosphere.

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.In many cases, the daughter nuclide itself is radioactive, resulting in a decay chain, eventually ending with the formation of a stable (nonradioactive) daughter nuclide; each step in such a chain is characterized by a distinct half-life.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.Radiocarbon present in molecules of atmospheric carbon dioxide enters the biological carbon cycle: it is absorbed from the air by green plants and then passed on to animals through the food chain.Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.

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Researchers can find out how long ago something died using radiocarbon dating.

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