Looks like you are using an old version of Internet Explorer - Please update your browser. If you already have an account, Sign in. The reason is simple. The most well-known of all the radiometric dating methods atomic dating wiley radiocarbon dating. Although many people think radiocarbon dating is used to date rocks, it is limited to dating things that contain the element carbon and were once alive like fossils.
Unlike radiocarbon 14 Cthe other radioactive elements used to date rocks—uranium Upotassium 40 Kand rubidium 87 Rb —are not being formed on earth, as far as we know. Thus it appears that God probably created those elements when He made the original earth. So how does radiocarbon form? Cosmic rays from outer atomic dating wiley are continually bombarding the upper atmosphere of the earth, producing fast-moving neutrons subatomic particles carrying no electric charge Figure 1a.
CARBON IS CREATED Figure 1a: These excited atomic dating wiley then collide with nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere, changing them into radioactive carbon atoms. CARBON IS ABSORBED Figure 1b: Plants absorb this carbon during photosynthesis. When animals eat the plants, the carbon enters their bodies. The carbon in their bodies breaks down to nitrogen and escapes at the same atomic dating wiley as new carbon is added.
So the level of carbon remains stable. CARBON IS DEPLETED Figure 1c: When an animal dies the carbon continues to break down to nitrogen and escapes, while no new carbon is added. By comparing the surviving amount of carbon to the original amount, scientists can calculate how long ago the animal died. This carbon dioxide, now radioactive with carbon, is otherwise chemically indistinguishable from the normal carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is slightly lighter because it contains normal carbon Radioactive and non-radioactive carbon dioxide mix throughout the atmosphere, and dissolve into the oceans.
Through photosynthesis carbon dioxide enters plants and algae, bringing radiocarbon into the food chain. Radiocarbon then enters animals as they consume the plants Figure 1b. So even we humans are radioactive because of trace amounts of radiocarbon in our bodies. Atomic dating wiley radiocarbon forms, the nuclei of the carbon atoms are unstable, so over time they progressively decay back to nuclei of stable nitrogen This process is called beta decay.
The ejected electrons are called beta particles and make up what is called beta radiation. Not all radiocarbon atoms decay at the atomic dating wiley time. Different carbon atoms revert to nitrogen at different times, which explains why radiocarbon decay is considered a random process. To measure the rate of decay, a suitable detector records the number of beta particles ejected from a measured quantity of carbon over a period of time, say a month for illustration purposes.
Atomic dating wiley each beta particle represents one decayed carbon atom, we know how many carbon atoms decay during a month. Chemists have already determined how many atoms are in a given mass of each element, such as carbon. If we know what fraction of the carbon atoms are radioactive, we can also calculate how many radiocarbon atoms are in the lump.
Knowing the number of atoms that decayed in our sample over a month, we can calculate the radiocarbon decay rate. The standard way of expressing the decay rate is called the half-life. So if we started with 2 million atoms of carbon in our measured quantity of carbon, then the half-life atomic dating wiley radiocarbon would be the time it takes for half, or 1 million, of those atoms to decay. The radiocarbon half-life or decay rate has been determined at atomic dating wiley, years.
Next comes the question of how scientists use this knowledge to date things. If carbon has formed at a constant rate for a very long time and continually mixed into the biosphere, then the level of carbon in the atmosphere should remain constant. If the level is constant, living plants and animals should also maintain a constant carbon level in them. The reason is that, as long as the organism is alive, it replaces any carbon molecule that has decayed atomic dating wiley nitrogen. After plants and animals perish, however, they no longer replace molecules damaged by radiocarbon decay.
Instead, the radiocarbon atoms in their bodies slowly decay away, so the ratio of carbon atoms to regular carbon atoms will steadily decrease over time Figure 1c. We can measure in the laboratory how many carbon atoms are still in the skull. If we assume that the mammoth originally had the same number of carbon- 14 atoms in its bones as living animals do today estimated at one carbon atom for every trillion carbon atomsthen, because we also know the radiocarbon decay rate, we can calculate how long ago the mammoth died.
This dating method is similar to the principle behind an hourglass. With time those sand grains fall to the bottom bowl, so the new number represents the carbon atoms left in the mammoth skull when we found it. The difference in the number of sand grains represents the number of carbon atoms that have decayed back to nitrogen since the mammoth died. Because we have measured the rate at which the sand grains fall the radiocarbon decay ratewe can then calculate how long it took those carbon atoms to decay, which is how long ago the mammoth died.
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