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Read more on calibration and accuracy of radiocarbon dating.

To demonstrate that the rates of decay of unstable nuclei can be measured, that the exact time that a certain nucleus will decay cannot be predicted, and that it takes a very large number of nuclei to find the rate of decay.

It's not that the radioactive carbon in air or food doesn't decay, it does.

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By about 58,000 years (ten half-lives) after an organism has died, there's so little radioactive carbon left (less than 1/1000) that calculations of age are no longer accurate.

That's why radiocarbon dating is only reliable for samples up to 50,000 years old.

So the proportion of carbon-14 inside living things is the same as the proportion of carbon-14 in the atmosphere at that time.

But when we stop eating, or when plants stop photosynthesising, our carbon-14 levels no longer get topped up.

When those speedy protons hit atoms you end up with a few stray neutrons zipping around the place.

Last modified 25-Dec-2019 20:13