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Scientists use a technique called radiometric dating to estimate the ages of rocks, fossils, and the earth.

Many people have been led to believe that radiometric dating methods have proved the earth to be billions of years old.

As the Earth's upper atmosphere is bombarded by cosmic radiation, atmospheric nitrogen is broken down into an unstable isotope of carbon - carbon 14 (C-14).

The unstable isotope is brought to Earth by atmospheric activity, such as storms, and becomes fixed in the biosphere.

During the lifetime of an organism, the amount of c14 in the tissues remains at an equilibrium since the loss (through radioactive decay) is balanced by the gain (through uptake via photosynthesis or consumption of organically fixed carbon).

However, when the organism dies, the amount of c14 declines such that the longer the time since death the lower the levels of c14 in organic tissue.

Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. Cosmic rays – high energy particles from beyond the solar system – bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere continually, in the process creating the unstable carbon-14. Because it’s unstable, carbon-14 will eventually decay back to carbon-12 isotopes.

Because the cosmic ray bombardment is fairly constant, there’s a near-constant level of carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in Earth’s atmosphere.

In contrast, methane made from petroleum products had no measurable radioactivity.The ensuing atomic interactions create a steady supply of c14 that rapidly diffuses throughout the atmosphere.Plants take up c14 along with other carbon isotopes during photosynthesis in the proportions that occur in the atmosphere; animals acquire c14 by eating the plants (or other animals).Atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes. Most carbon on Earth exists as the very stable isotope carbon-12, with a very small amount as carbon-13.Here’s an example using the simplest atom, hydrogen. Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope of carbon that will eventually decay at a known rate to become carbon-12.