When did radiocarbon dating begin
Next comes the question of how scientists use this knowledge to date things.If carbon-14 has formed at a constant rate for a very long time and continually mixed into the biosphere, then the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere should remain constant.After plants and animals perish, however, they no longer replace molecules damaged by radioactive decay.Instead, the radiocarbon atoms in their bodies slowly decay away, so the ratio of carbon-14 atoms to regular carbon atoms will steadily decrease over time (figure 3).
After each half-life of 5,730 years, the number of parent radiocarbon atoms remaining is halved.Since the atmosphere is composed of about 78 percent nitrogen,2 a lot of radiocarbon atoms are produced—in total about 16.5 lbs. These rapidly combine with oxygen atoms (the second most abundant element in the atmosphere, at 21 percent) to form carbon dioxide (CO This carbon dioxide, now radioactive with carbon-14, is otherwise chemically indistinguishable from the normal carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is slightly lighter because it contains normal carbon-12.Radioactive and non-radioactive carbon dioxide mix throughout the atmosphere, and dissolve in the oceans.Radiocarbon (carbon-14 or C) forms continually today in the earth’s upper atmosphere.And as far as we know, it has been forming in the earth’s upper atmosphere at least since the Fall, after the atmosphere was made back on Day Two of creation week (part of the expanse, or firmament, described in Genesis 1:6–8). Cosmic rays from outer space are continually bombarding the upper atmosphere of the earth, producing fast-moving neutrons (sub-atomic particles carrying no electric charge) (figure 1).1 These fast-moving neutrons collide with nitrogen-14 atoms, the most abundant element in the upper atmosphere, converting them into radiocarbon (carbon-14) atoms.
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So even we humans are radioactive because of trace amounts of radiocarbon in our bodies.