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Facts about carbon dating

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The approximate time since the organism died can be worked out by measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in its remains compared to the amount in living organisms.Radiocarbon dating, which is also known as carbon-14 dating, is one widely used radiometric dating scheme to determine dates of ancient artifacts.This dating method works by measuring the ratio of different isotopes of carbon in a sample using a particle accelerator, such as the ANTARES accelerator at ANSTO. The carbon-12 isotope makes up 99% of all carbon on earth, carbon-13 accounts for almost 1%, and carbon-14 is found in trace amounts.Carbon-12 and carbon-13 are both stable isotopes, but carbon-14 is unstable and is radioactive.Once an organism dies, it stops taking in carbon-14.The carbon-14 it contained at the time of death decays over a long period of time, and the radioactivity of the material decreases.Materials that originally came from living things, such as wood and natural fibres, can be dated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 they contain.For example, in 1991, two hikers discovered a mummified man, preserved for centuries in the ice on an alpine mountain.

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Creationists often criticize radiocarbon dating in the context of discussions of the age of the earth. Arrange carbon atoms in one way, and they become soft, pliable graphite. — the atoms form diamond, one of the hardest materials in the world.Carbon is also the key ingredient for most life on Earth; the pigment that made the first tattoos; and the basis for technological marvels such as graphene, which is a material stronger than steel and more flexible than rubber.Radiocarbon dating can date samples up to 50,000 years old.Samples older than that contain so little carbon-14 that the dating process is inaccurate.When a plant or animal organism dies, however, the exchange of radiocarbon from the atmosphere and the biosphere stops, and the amount of radiocarbon gradually decreases, with a half-life of approximately 5730 years.