A carbon dating


Organisms capture a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere when they are alive.By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14.The carbon-14 atoms are always decaying, but they are being replaced by new carbon-14 atoms at a constant rate.Since the 1960s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.As a rule, carbon dates are younger than calendar dates: a bone carbon-dated to 10,000 years is around 11,000 years old, and 20,000 carbon years roughly equates to 24,000 calendar years.The researchers collected roughly 70-metre core samples from the lake and painstakingly counted the layers to come up with a direct record stretching back 52,000 years.



“If you’re trying to look at archaeological sites at the order of 30,000 or 40,000 years ago, the ages may shift by only a few hundred years but that may be significant in putting them before or after changes in climate,” he says.The more accurate carbon clock should yield better dates for any overlap of humans and Neanderthals, as well as for determining how climate changes influenced the extinction of Neanderthals.“If you have a better estimate of when the last Neanderthals lived to compare to climate records in Greenland or elsewhere, then you’ll have a better idea of whether the extinction was climate driven or competition with modern humans,” says Paula Reimer, a geochronologist at Queen’s University in Belfast, UK.Animals and people eat plants and take in carbon-14 as well.



A carbon dating comments


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    paulette60

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    paulette60

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