What makes radiocarbon dating work

Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. Cosmic rays – high energy particles from beyond the solar system – bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere continually, in the process creating the unstable carbon-14. Because it’s unstable, carbon-14 will eventually decay back to carbon-12 isotopes.Because the cosmic ray bombardment is fairly constant, there’s a near-constant level of carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in Earth’s atmosphere.Follow the links below to learn more about radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating uses carbon isotopes A special kind of radiocarbon dating: Bomb radiocarbon dating What is an isotope?

The ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in the atmosphere has varied in the past.

This is because the amount and strength of cosmic radiation entering the earth's atmosphere has varied over time.

is a technique used by scientists to learn the ages of biological specimens – for example, wooden archaeological artifacts or ancient human remains – from the distant past.

It can be used on objects as old as about 62,000 years.

This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radiocarbon.

The atmosphere contains many stable carbon atoms and relatively few radiocarbon atoms.

Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years.

The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of radiocarbon in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.

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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