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12-Feb-2021 08:03

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Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.It takes another 5,730 for half of the remainder to decay, and then another 5,730 for half of what's left then to decay and so on.The period of time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is called a "half-life."Radiocarbon oxidizes (that is, it combines with oxygen) and enters the biosphere through natural processes like breathing and eating.C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive, though it is not dangerous.Specimens which lived and died during a period of intense volcanism would appear older than they really are if they were dated using this technique.The ratio can further be affected by C-14 production rates in the atmosphere, which in turn is affected by the amount of cosmic rays penetrating the earth's atmosphere.

Precise measurements taken over the last 140 years have shown a steady decay in the strength of the earth's magnetic field.Measuring the difference in the ratio between carbon-12 and carbon-14 is useful for dating the age of organic matter since a living organism is exchanging carbon and maintaining a certain ratio of isotopes.