Half life and radiocarbon dating

Carbon-14 dating can be used on objects ranging from a few hundred years old to 50,000 years old. Libby and others (University of Chicago) devised a method of estimating the age of organic material based on the decay rate of carbon-14.

In earth's upper atmosphere, on the edge of what is commonly called outer space, light atomic nuclei from unknown sources outside of our solar system traveling at speeds approaching the speed of light called rain down continuously.

These highly energetic nuclear bullets wreak havoc on the atoms in the upper atmosphere: tearing electrons from their orbitals and setting them free, knocking neutrons and protons from the tight confines of the nucleus and setting them free, generating x-rays and gamma rays as they decelerate, and creating exotic particles like muons and pions directly from their excessive kinetic energy.

We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].

Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.

Oakley (1979) suggested its development meant an almost complete re-writing of the evolution and cultural emergence of the human species.

Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).At any particular time all living organisms have approximately the same ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in their tissues.When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14.About one carbon atom in a trillion (10) contains a radioactive nucleus with 6 protons and 8 neutrons — carbon 14.This rare, unstable isotope is produced from ordinary nitrogen 14.These are also highly energetic and will ionize atoms, transmute nuclei, and generate x-rays themselves.

Tags: , ,