Meaning of radiocarbon dating

The proportion of carbon 14 in the sample examined provides an indication of the time elapsed since death of the sample’s source.Radiocarbon dating results are reported in uncalibrated years BP (Before Present), where BP is defined as AD 1950.The unstable carbon-14 gradually decays to carbon-12 at a steady rate. Scientists measure the ratio of carbon isotopes to be able to estimate how far back in time a biological sample was active or alive.This plot shows the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere as measured in New Zealand (red) and Austria (green), representing the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, respectively.

Carbon 14 dating remains to be a powerful, dependable and widely applicable technique that is invaluable to archaeologists and other scientists.is a term for radiocarbon dating based on timestamps left by above-ground nuclear explosions, and it is especially useful for putting an absolute age on organisms that lived through those events.In The Cosmic Story of Carbon-14 Ethan Siegel writes: The only major fluctuation [in carbon-14] we know of occurred when we began detonating nuclear weapons in the open air, back in the mid-20th century.A detailed description of radiocarbon dating is available at the Wikipedia radiocarbon dating web page.Bottom line: Radiocarbon dating is a technique used by scientists to learn the ages of biological specimens from the distant past.

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