What is carbon dating

Natural and anthropogenic fluctuations in environmental radiocarbon levels mean that organisms living in different centuries within the past 500 years can have identical radiocarbon contents.

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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.

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

It is then incorporated into all living organisms by means of the food chain.

After an organism dies, its level of carbon-14 gradually declines at a predictable pace, with a half-life of about 5,730 years.

Here’s an example using the simplest atom, hydrogen. Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope of carbon that will eventually decay at a known rate to become carbon-12.

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 has resulted in artificially high levels of carbon-14 in plants and animals living in the past 60 years.The forensic use of carbon-14 measurement does not rely on the slow decay process.Since then, atmospheric carbon-14 levels have been declining as the radiocarbon is soaked up by the oceans and the biosphere.The radiocarbon created by the thermonuclear explosions is identical to naturally created radiocarbon, and its route into plant and animal tissues is the same.Sidebar to the article Applying Carbon-14 Dating to Recent Human Remains by Philip Bulman with Danielle Mc Leod-Henning Standard carbon-14 testing, as used by archaeologists, is based on the natural process of radioactive carbon formation that results from cosmic ray bombardment of nitrogen in the earth's upper atmosphere.

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