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Dendrochronology: What Tree Rings Tell Us About Past and Present
Radiocarbon Dating: Nature's Timepiece Gets a Tune-Up | Climate Central
Uses of Radiocarbon Dating Climate science required the invention and mastery of many difficult techniques. These had pitfalls, which could lead to controversy. An example of the ingenious technical work and hard-fought debates underlying the main story is the use of radioactive carbon to assign dates to the distant past. The prodigious mobilization of science that produced nuclear weapons was so far-reaching that it revolutionized even the study of ancient climates. The radioactive isotope carbon is created in the upper atmosphere when cosmic-ray particles from outer space strike nitrogen atoms and transform them into radioactive carbon. Some of the carbon might find its way into living creatures. After a creature's death the isotope would slowly decay away over millennia at a fixed rate.
Fossil Fuels May Bring Major Changes to Carbon Dating
Radiocarbon dating also referred to as carbon dating or carbon dating is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon , a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was developed in the late s at the University of Chicago by Willard Libby , who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in It is based on the fact that radiocarbon 14 C is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.
However, as SciShow points out in a recent episode, the excessive use of fossil fuels is making that method less reliable. Carbon dating, also called radiocarbon or C dating, involves analyzing the ratio of two isotopes of carbon: C a radioactive form of carbon that decays over time and C a more stable form. By analyzing that ratio in a given object compared to a living organism, archaeologists, paleontologists, and other scientists can get a pretty clear idea of how old that first object is. However, as more and more fossil fuels are burned, more carbon dioxide is released into the environment. In turn, this releases more of another isotope, called C, which changes the ratio of carbon isotopes in the atmosphere and skews the carbon dating analysis.