Radiocarbon dating the iceman

Radioactive dating is based on the fact that a radioactive isotope of an element changes into an isotope of another element at a fixed rate.Each radioactive isotope has its own rate, expressed in terms of its half-life.The aim here is to provide clear, understandable information relating to radiocarbon dating for the benefit of K12 students, as well as lay people who are not requiring detailed information about the method of radiocarbon dating itself.I have tried here to answer some of the frequently asked questions that I receive from students via email, as well as providing some basic information about scientific dating methods.With little or no other information available, the widely used method can accurately determine how old a sample is.This makes it one of the most powerful tools archaeologists, anthropologists and paleontologists have at their disposal.When the stocks of Oxalic Acid I were almost fully consumed, another standard was made from a crop of 1977 French beet molasses.

Welcome to the K12 section of the Radiocarbon WEBinfo site.

Radiocarbon, or carbon 14, is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive.

Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms.

Some inorganic matter, like a shell’s aragonite component, can also be dated as long as the mineral’s formation involved assimilation of carbon 14 in equilibrium with the atmosphere.

Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and even biomedicine.

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