Scientists rely on a method called radiocarbon dating to determine the age of fossils or artifacts. With little or no other information available, the widely used method can accurately determine how old a sample is. This makes it one of the most powerful tools archaeologists, anthropologists and paleontologists have at their disposal. Rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are, however, artificially aging the atmosphere and this might drastically interfere with the accuracy of radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon, where an isotope is an element with the same number of protons, but different number of neutrons. So, essentially isotopes of the same element are chemically identical, but of different masses.
Growing CO2 levels are messing up radiocarbon dating
Marine Reservoir Effect, Corrections to Radiocarbon Dates
When researchers find a bone or artifact, how do they know how old it is? While there are a number of answers to that question, most of which depend largely on the age and surroundings of the item, carbon dating is surely one of the most important. The physics, chemistry, and biology, behind carbon dating is absolutely fascinating and worth knowing. Earth is constantly being bombarded with cosmic radiation, which are highly energetic, charged particles that originate from stellar disturbances, like solar flares and supernovae. Some of these particles collide with atmospheric nitrogen and knock off one of its protons. What do you get when you subtract one proton from nitrogen? It is wondrous to consider that almost all of the mass of plants is from condensed air.
ERRORS ARE FEARED IN CARBON DATING
The basis of radiocarbon dating includes the assumption that there is a constant level of carbon 14 in the atmosphere and therefore in all living organisms through equilibrium. Carbon 14 is a naturally occurring isotope of the element carbon and is called radiocarbon. It is unstable and weakly radioactive. Another characteristic of carbon 14 is that it is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere as a product of the reaction between neutrons produced by cosmic rays and nitrogen atoms. These carbon 14 atoms then instantaneously react with oxygen present in the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide.