Radioactive decay and dating

Carbon dating can be used to date things up to about 60 000 years old. Many people think that plants grow by taking food from the soil through their roots but this is not true. Animals eat plants (or other animals that eat plants) so animals are also mostly rearranged carbon dioxide.

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As it's produced carbon-14 reacts with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and some of it is taken in by green plants and made into sugars along with the 'normal' carbon.

Carbon-14 is produced all the time but it also decays all the time back into nitrogen-14.

An equilibrium is reached whereby about one in a trillion carbon atoms in the atmosphere is carbon-14.

We’re going to see what 'half-life' means and why radioactivity changes with time. It doesn’t depend on the size of the sample and it doesn’t change with time. So we imagine going in forward one half-life at a time from ZERO years: 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, etc.

We’ll also see how carbon dating can be used to date ancient remains. If we had a bigger sample of the same isotope then the count would be higher, say 200 becquerels. Then we halve the count for each half-life: 100 Bq after 10 years; 50 Bq after 20 years; 25 Bq after 30 years So we can see the radioactivity would be 25 becquerels afer 30 years.

Last modified 06-Feb-2016 04:07