Carbon dating in positives and negatives of dating

17 Feb

Protons and neutrons make up the center (nucleus) of the atom, and electrons form shells around the nucleus.

The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom determines the element.

If you ever wondered why nuclear tests are now performed underground, this is why.

Most radiocarbon dating today is done using an accelerator mass spectrometer, an instrument that directly counts the numbers of carbon-14 and carbon-12 in a sample.

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.

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Atomic mass is a combination of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus.

So, a carbon atom might have six neutrons, or seven, or possibly eight—but it would always have six protons.

An “isotope” is any of several different forms of an element, each having different numbers of neutrons.

A detailed description of radiocarbon dating is available at the Wikipedia radiocarbon dating web page.

Bottom line: Radiocarbon dating is a technique used by scientists to learn the ages of biological specimens from the distant past.