Radiocarbon dating for dummies

Thus, as living things take in carbon, they inevitably will take up a small amount of radioactive carbon into their bodies.When these lifeforms die, they stop taking in new carbon.However, scientists can look at the decay of other elements in these objects allowing them to date them up to 2.2 billion years.Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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.

Along with hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur, carbon is a building block of biochemical molecules ranging from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to active substances such as hormones.

All carbon atoms have a nucleus containing six protons.

As a result it is always undergoing natural radioactive decay while the abundances of the other isotopes are unchanged.

Carbon-14 is most abundant in atmospheric carbon dioxide because it is constantly being produced by collisions between nitrogen atoms and cosmic rays at the upper limits of the atmosphere.

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