Radioactive carbon dating wikipedia

08-Aug-2014 02:00 by 5 Comments

Radioactive carbon dating wikipedia - Dirty free sex

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.

It’s not absolutely constant due to several variables that affect the levels of cosmic rays reaching the atmosphere, such as the fluctuating strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, solar cycles that influence the amount of cosmic rays entering the solar system, climatic changes, and human activities.Among the significant events that caused a temporary but significant spike in the atmospheric carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio were above-ground nuclear test detonations in the two decades following World War a term for radiocarbon dating based on timestamps left by above-ground nuclear explosions, and it is especially useful for putting an absolute age on organisms that lived through those events.In The Cosmic Story of Carbon-14 Ethan Siegel writes: The only major fluctuation [in carbon-14] we know of occurred when we began detonating nuclear weapons in the open air, back in the mid-20th Century.If you ever wondered why nuclear tests are now performed underground, this is why.You find a bone fragment and through analysis you determine that it contains 13% of its original carbon-14.

The half-life of carbon-14 is approximately 5,730 years. Start with the equation for continuous growth and decay: Thus the bone is approximately 17,000 years old.

Some isotopes have half lives longer than the present age of the universe, but they are still subject to the same laws of quantum physics and will eventually decay, even if doing so at a time when all remaining atoms in the universe are separated by astronomical distances.

Various elements are used for dating different time periods; ones with relatively short half-lives like carbon-14 (or C) are useful for dating once-living objects (since they include atmospheric carbon from when they were alive) from about ten to fifty thousand years old. Longer-lived isotopes provide dating information for much older times.

Although the time at which any individual atom will decay cannot be forecast, the time in which any given percentage of a sample will decay can be calculated to varying degrees of accuracy.

The time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is known as the half life of the isotope.

Organisms at the base of the food chain that photosynthesize – for example, plants and algae – use the carbon in Earth’s atmosphere.

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