Radiocarbon dating for dummies
How do scientists determine the age of fossils that have been under the surface of the earth for thousands of years?Scientific American Editor Michael Moyer explains the process of radiocarbon dating.Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and even biomedicine.Radiocarbon, or carbon 14, is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms.In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.He first demonstrated the accuracy of radiocarbon dating by accurately estimating the age of wood from an ancient Egyptian royal barge of which the age was known from historical documents.October 10, 2017Have your volunteers logged 150 hours in this challenge?
In this method, the carbon 14 content is directly measured relative to the carbon 12 and carbon 13 present. Some inorganic matter, like a shell’s aragonite component, can also be dated as long as the mineral’s formation involved assimilation of carbon 14 in equilibrium with the atmosphere.
No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.
Archaeology and other human sciences use radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories.
An age could be estimated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in the sample and comparing this against an internationally used reference standard.
The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.
There are three principal techniques used to measure carbon 14 content of any given sample— gas proportional counting, liquid scintillation counting, and accelerator mass spectrometry.