After reading this section you will be able to do the following: As you learned in the previous page, carbon dating uses the half-life of Carbon to find the approximate age of certain objects that are 40, years old or younger. In the following section we are going to go more in-depth about carbon dating in order to help you get a better understanding of how it works. What exactly is radiocarbon dating?
What is Carbon Dating? - Definition & Overview
Why Is Radiocarbon Dating Important To Archaeology?
The article is in straightforward language and the non-technical reader could profitably work through it. Carbon C 14 or radiocarbon as it is often called, is a substance manufactured in the upper atmosphere by the action of cosmic rays. Ordinary nitrogen N 14 is converted into C 14 as shown to the right. Ordinary carbon is carbon C We find it in carbon dioxide in the air we breathe CO 2 , which of course is cycled by plants and animals throughout nature, so that your body, or the leaf of a tree, or even a piece of wooden furniture, contains carbon. When C 14 has been formed, it behaves just like ordinary carbon C 12 , combining with oxygen to give carbon dioxide C 14 -O 2 , and also gets freely cycled through the cells of all plants and animals. The difference is this:
Radiocarbon dating can easily establish that humans have been on the earth for over twenty thousand years, at least twice as long as creationists are willing to allow. Therefore it should come as no surprise that creationists at the Institute for Creation Research ICR have been trying desperately to discredit this method for years. They have their work cut out for them, however, because radiocarbon C dating is one of the most reliable of all the radiometric dating methods. This article will answer several of the most common creationist attacks on carbon dating, using the question-answer format that has proved so useful to lecturers and debaters. Cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere are constantly converting the isotope nitrogen N into carbon C or radiocarbon.
Seventy years ago, American chemist Willard Libby devised an ingenious method for dating organic materials. His technique, known as carbon dating, revolutionized the field of archaeology. Now researchers could accurately calculate the age of any object made of organic materials by observing how much of a certain form of carbon remained, and then calculating backwards to determine when the plant or animal that the material came from had died. An isotope is a form of an element with a certain number of neutrons, which are the subatomic particles found in the nucleus of an atom that have no charge. While the number of protons and electrons in an atom determine what element it is, the number of neutrons can vary widely between different atoms of the same element.