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Science for kids radiometric dating carbon 14

magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this.

In fact, the whole method is a giant ‘clock’ which seems to put a very young upper limit on the age of the atmosphere.has upset the natural carbon balance by releasing huge quantities of C ratio was like before the industrial revolution, and all radiocarbon dating is made with this in mind.How do we know what the ratio was before then, though, say thousands of years ago?It is assumed that the ratio has been constant for a very long time before the industrial revolution. (For on it hangs the whole validity of the system.) Why did W. Libby, the brilliant discoverer of this system, assume this?As soon as it dies, however, the C ration gets smaller.In other words, we have a ‘clock’ which starts ticking at the moment something dies.

Obviously this only works for things which once contained carbon—it can’t be used to date rocks and minerals, for example. We obviously need to know this to be able to work out at what point the ‘clock’ began to tick.

We’ve seen that it would have been the same as in the atmosphere at the time the specimen died. Do scientists assume that it was the same as it is now? It is well known that the industrial revolution, with its burning of huge masses of coal, etc.

The article is in straightforward language and the non-technical reader could profitably work through it.

, we find that this ration is the same if we sample a leaf from a tree, or a part of your body.

Think of it like a teaspoon of cocoa mixed into a cake dough—after a while, the ‘ratio’ of cocoa to flour particles would be roughly the same no matter which part of the cake you sampled.

The fact that the C doesn’t matter in a living thing—because it is constantly exchanging carbon with its surroundings, the ‘mixture’ will be the same as in the atmosphere and in all living things.

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