Benefits of using radiocarbon dating

How It Works: Carbon has 3 isotopic forms: Carbon-12, Carbon-13, and Carbon-14.The numbers refer to the atomic weight, so Carbon-12 has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, Carbon-13 has 6 protons and 7 neutrons, and Carbon-14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.The extra neutrons in Carbon-14’s case make it radioactive (thus the term, radiocarbon).Radiocarbon is produced in the upper atmosphere after Nitrogen-14 isotopes have been impacted by cosmic radiation.Long tree-ring sequences have been developed throughout the world and can be used to check and calibrate radiocarbon dates. An extensive tree-ring sequence from the present to 6700 BC was developed in Arizona using California bristlecone pine (), some of which are 4900 years old, making them the oldest living things on earth.

One good example would be the elevated levels of Carbon-14 in our atmosphere since WWII as a result of atomic bombs testing.Absolute dating represents the absolute age of the sample before the present.Historical documents and calendars can be used to find such absolute dates; however, when working in a site without such documents, it is hard for absolute dates to be determined.Radiocarbon is then taken in by plants through photosynthesis, and these plants in turn are consumed by all the organisms on the planet.So every living thing has a certain amount of radiocarbon within them.

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In 1949, American chemist Willard Libby, who worked on the development of the atomic bomb, published the first set of radiocarbon dates.

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