How does carbon 14 dating work

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.

Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.When these energetic neutrons collide with a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom it turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons).Since Nitrogen gas makes up about 78 percent of the Earth's air, by volume, a considerable amount of Carbon-14 is produced.Libby and coworkers, and it has provided a way to determine the ages of different materials in archeology, geology, geophysics, and other branches of science.Some examples of the types of material that radiocarbon can determine the ages of are wood, charcoal, marine and freshwater shell, bone and antler, and peat and organic-bearing sediments.

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The method was developed by Willard Libby in the late 1940s and soon became a standard tool for archaeologists.

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