Definition of radiocarbon dating

An isotope is a variation of an element based upon the number of neutrons.

The disintegration of the neutrons within the atom of the element's nucleus is what scientists call radioactivity.

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Remember, isotopes are variations of elements with a different number of neutrons.

The half-life is reliable in dating artifacts because it's not affected by environmental or chemical factors; it does not change.

These are both isotopes of the element carbon present in a constant ratio while an organism is living; however, once an organism dies, the ratio of carbon-14 decreases as the isotope deteriorates.

Radiocarbon dating can only be used to date items back to as far as about 50,000 years old.

If a scientist were to compute this, he or she would say two half-lives went by at a rate of 4.5 billion years per half-life; therefore, the sample is approximately 2 times 4.5 billion, or 9 billion years old. So you see, earth scientists are able to use the half-lives of isotopes to date materials back to thousands, millions, and even to billions of years old.

The half-life is so predictable that it is also referred to as an atomic clock.

A new, more stable isotope, called the decay, or daughter product, takes its place.

The isotope doesn't actually deteriorate; it just changes into something else.

Try It risk-free Ever wonder how scientists concluded the age of the earth to be about 4.6 billion years old or how geologists determined the ages of caverns, rocks, volcanoes, the Himalayas, or even the age of Pompeii bread?

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