Theory behind radiocarbon dating

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work!The carbon-14 isotope would vanish from Earth's atmosphere in less than a million years were it not for the constant influx of cosmic rays interacting with molecules of nitrogen (NFigure 1: Diagram of the formation of carbon-14 (forward), the decay of carbon-14 (reverse).Carbon-14 is constantly be generated in the atmosphere and cycled through the carbon and nitrogen cycles.This discovery is in contrast to the carbon dating results for the Turin Shroud that was supposed to have wrapped Jesus’ body.

It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities.A child mummy is found high in the Andes and the archaeologist says the child lived more than 2,000 years ago.How do scientists know how old an object or human remains are?Before Radiocarbon dating was able to be discovered, someone had to find the existence of the C isotope.In 1940 Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben at the University of California, Berkeley Radiation Laboratory did just that.

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