Scientific definition of carbon dating
Plants and animals assimilate carbon 14 from carbon dioxide throughout their lifetimes.When they die, they stop exchanging carbon with the biosphere and their carbon 14 content then starts to decrease at a rate determined by the law of radioactive decay.All carbon atoms have a nucleus containing six protons.Ninety-nine percent of these also contain six neutrons.The 6 proton 6 neutron atoms are said to have a mass of 12 and are referred to as "carbon-12." The nuclei of the remaining one percent of carbon atoms contain not six but either seven or eight neutrons in addition to the standard six protons.They have masses of 13 and 14 respectively and are referred to as "carbon-13" and "carbon-14." If two atoms have equal numbers of protons but differing numbers of neutrons, one is said to be an "isotope" of the other.Archaeology and other human sciences use radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories.Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology, and even biomedicine.
The carbon-14 it contained at the time of death decays over a long period of time, and the radioactivity of the material decreases.
Carbon-13 and carbon-14 are thus isotopes of carbon-12.
Isotopes participate in the same chemical reactions but often at differing rates.
The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.
No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.