Why do we use carbon 14 for carbon dating

Nitrogen normally occurs in a seven proton, seven nuetron, nitrogen-14 state.

When it collides with an energetic neutron it becomes carbon-14, with six protons and eight neutrons and gives off a hydrogen atom with one proton and zero neutrons. Carbon-14 is an isotope of carbon, which exists only is small amounts in the environment (1 in one trillion carbon atoms is carbon-14).

Scientists now realize that production of carbon-14 has not been constant over the last 10,000 years, but has changed as the radiation from the sun has changed.

Carbon dates reported in the 1950s and 1960s should be questioned, because those studies were conducted before carbon dating was calibrated by comparision with other dating methods.

This technique is not restricted to bones; it can also be used on cloth, wood and plant fibers. The short half-life of carbon-14 means its cannot be used to date extremely old fossils.

Carbon-14 dating has been used successfully on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Minoan ruins and tombs of the pharohs among other things. Levels of carbon-14 become difficult to measure and compare after about 50,000 years (between 8 and 9 half lives; where 1% of the original carbon-14 remains undecayed).

Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50,000 years old.

When scientists first began to compare carbon dating data to data from tree rings, they found carbon dating provided "too-young" estimates of artifact age.This carbon-14 labeled carbon dioxide is taken up by plants in their normal process of photosynthesis.Animals and people that eat these plants take the carbon-14 into their bodies as well.These artifacts have gone through many carbon-14 half-lives and the amount of carbon-14 remaining in them is miniscule and very difficult to detect.Carbon dating cannot be used on most fossils, not only because they are almost always too old, but also because they rarely contain the original carbon of the organism.

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