Picture of carbon dating

As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 70,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.Atmospheric carbon-14 rapidly reacts with oxygen in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the carbon cycle.Plants take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and the carbon-14 makes its way up the food chain and into all living organisms.For the record, a beta-particle is a specific type of nuclear decay. Image 1 shows carbon-14 production by high energy neutrons hitting nitrogen-14 atoms, while in Image 2, carbon-14 naturally decomposes through beta-particle production.Notice that the nitrogen-14 atom is recreated and goes back into the cycle.Once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 reduces by the fixed half-life - or the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay - of 5,730 years, and can be measured by scientists for up to 10 half-lives.Measuring the amount of radioactive carbon-14 remaining makes it possible to work out how old the artifact is, whether it's a fossilized skeleton or a magnificent piece of artwork.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contains a constant amount of carbon-14, and as long as an organism is living, the amount of carbon-14 inside it is the same as the atmosphere.Then the radiocarbon dating measures remaining radioactivity.By knowing how much carbon-14 is left in a sample, the age of the organism and when it died can be worked out.Radiocarbon dating has been used extensively since its discovery.Examples of use include analyzing charcoal from prehistoric caves, ancient linen and wood, and mummified remains.

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