# Carbon dating definition

a nonmetallic element existing in the three crystalline forms: graphite, diamond, and buckminsterfullerene: occurring in carbon dioxide, coal, oil, and all organic compounds.The isotope carbon-12 has been adopted as the standard for atomic wt.; carbon-14, a radioisotope with a half-life of 5700 years, is used in radiocarbon dating and as a tracer.THE AMERICAN HERITAGE® DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, FIFTH EDITION by the Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries.Copyright © 2016, 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.We have devices to measure the radioactivity of a sample, and the ratio described above translates into a rate of 15.6 decays/min per gram of carbon in a living sample.

3) The assumption we based this on (that the ratio of carbon 14 in the atmosphere and thus in living organisms is constant) is a decent one for ballpark figures, but this method will not be able to give results accurate to, say, a couple of minutes.This means that given a statistically large sample of carbon 14, we know that if we sit it in a box, go away, and come back in 5730 years, half of it will still be carbon 14, and the other half will have decayed.Or in other words, if we have a box, and we don't know how old it is but we know it started with 100 carbon 14 atoms, and we open it and find only 50 carbon 14 atoms and some other stuff, we could say, 'Aha!It must be 1 carbon 14 half-life (or 5730 years) old.' This is the basic idea behind carbon dating. In the atmosphere, cosmic rays smash into normal carbon 12 atoms (in atmospheric carbon dioxide), and create carbon 14 isotopes.So in the real world, looking at a sample like say a bone dug up by an archaeologist, how do we know how much carbon 14 we started with? This process is constantly occurring, and has been for a very long time, so there is a fairly constant ratio of carbon 14 atoms to carbon 12 atoms in the atmosphere.

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