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We have devices to measure the radioactivity of a sample, and the ratio described above translates into a rate of 15.6 decays/min per gram of carbon in a living sample.And if you play with the exponential decay equations, you can come up with the nice formula (1/2)=(current decay rate)/(initial decay rate), where n is the number of half lives that have passed.Asked by: William Baker Carbon 14 (C14) is an isotope of carbon with 8 neutrons instead of the more common 6 neutrons.It is unstable, and scientists know that it radioactively decays by electron emission to Nitrogen 14, with a half life of 5730 years.Climate records from a Japanese lake are set to improve the accuracy of the dating technique, which could help to shed light on archaeological mysteries such as why Neanderthals became extinct.Carbon dating is used to work out the age of organic material — in effect, any living thing.The carbon source for plants is CO2, and while a plant lives it will constantly also absorb CO2 where the carbon atom is C-14.

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Some notes: 1) Obviously, this technique only works for dead organic material.This means that given a statistically large sample of carbon 14, we know that if we sit it in a box, go away, and come back in 5730 years, half of it will still be carbon 14, and the other half will have decayed.Or in other words, if we have a box, and we don't know how old it is but we know it started with 100 carbon 14 atoms, and we open it and find only 50 carbon 14 atoms and some other stuff, we could say, 'Aha!This equilibrium persists in living organisms as long as they continue living, but when they die, they no longer 'breathe' or eat new 14 carbon isotopes Now it's fairly simple to determine how many total carbon atoms should be in a sample given its weight and chemical makeup.And given the fact that the ratio of carbon 14 to carbon 12 in living organisms is approximately 1 : 1.35x10 In actually measuring these quantities, we take advantage of the fact that the rate of decay (how many radioactive emissions occur per unit time) is dependent on how many atoms there are in a sample (this criteria leads to an exponential decay rate).

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