When we speak of the element Carbon, we most often refer to the most naturally abundant stable isotope 12 C. Although 12 C is definitely essential to life, its unstable sister isotope 14 C has become of extreme importance to the science world. Radiocarbon Dating is the process of determining the age of a sample by examining the amount of 14 C remaining against the known half-life, 5, years. The reason this process works is because when organisms are alive they are constantly replenishing their 14 C supply through respiration, providing them with a constant amount of the isotope. However, when an organism ceases to exist, it no longer takes in carbon from its environment and the unstable 14 C isotope begins to decay. From this science, we are able to approximate the date at which the organism were living on Earth. Radiocarbon dating is used in many fields to learn information about the past conditions of organisms and the environments present on Earth.
Unstable nuclei decay.
There are few fields of science that carbon has not touched. A radioactive isotope of carbon, it stands out for its unusually long half-life. Best known for its application to estimating the age of artifacts--carbon dating--carbon helped reveal new chronologies of human civilization and geological time. Everything containing carbon, the basis of all life, could be placed in time according to the clock of radioactive decay, with research applications ranging from archeology to oceanography to climatology. In Hot CarbonJohn F.
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