Definition of radiocarbon dating

All living things exchange the gas Carbon 14 (C14) with the atmosphere around them—animals and plants exchange Carbon 14 with the atmosphere, fish and corals exchange carbon with dissolved C14 in the water.Throughout the life of an animal or plant, the amount of C14 is perfectly balanced with that of its surroundings. The C14 in a dead organism slowly decays at a known rate: its "half life".Free 5-day trial Ever wondered how scientists know the age of old bones in an ancient site or how old a scrap of linen is?The technique used is called carbon dating and in this lesson we will learn what this is and how it is used. Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, is a method used to date materials that once exchanged carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. In the late 1940s, an American physical chemist named Willard Libby first developed a method to measure radioactivity of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope.The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of radiocarbon in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).It can be used on objects as old as about 62,000 years.

But there are many misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is.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.To understand radiocarbon dating, you first have to understand the word Although an element’s number of protons cannot change, the number of neutrons can vary slightly from each atom.Atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes. Most carbon on Earth exists as the very stable isotope carbon-12, with a very small amount as carbon-13.