How does radiocarbon dating work simple
There are many carbon atoms in our environment. The vast majority of these are 12 C pronounced "c twelve" , the stable isotope of carbon. However, cosmic radiation constantly collides with atoms in the upper atmosphere. Part of the result of these collisions is the production of radiocarbon 14 C, pronounced "c fourteen" , carbon atoms which are chemically the same as stable carbon, but have two extra neutrons. Radiocarbon is not stable; over time radiocarbon atoms decay into nitrogen atoms. This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radio carbon.
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The Carbon 14 (C) dating method - A Question of Time
Despite the name, it does not give an absolute date of organic material - but an approximate age, usually within a range of a few years either way. There are three carbon isotopes that occur as part of the Earth's natural processes; these are carbon, carbon and carbon The unstable nature of carbon 14 with a precise half-life that makes it easy to measure means it is ideal as an absolute dating method. The other two isotopes in comparison are more common than carbon in the atmosphere but increase with the burning of fossil fuels making them less reliable for study 2 ; carbon also increases, but its relative rarity means its increase is negligible. The half-life of the 14 C isotope is 5, years, adjusted from 5, years originally calculated in the s; the upper limit of dating is in the region of , years, after which the amount of 14 C is negligible 3. After this point, other Absolute Dating methods may be used.
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Radiocarbon dating gets a postmodern makeover
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Radiocarbon dating is a method that provides objective age estimates for carbon-based materials that originated from living organisms. The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century. Archaeology and other human sciences use radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories.
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