How is carbon dating used
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Radioactive carbon-14 is continually formed in the atmosphere by the bombardment of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen-14 atoms.
After it forms, carbon-14 naturally decomposes, with a half-life of 5,730 years, through beta-particle decay.
The half-life is the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay.
For example, if you start off with 1000 radioactive nuclei with a half-life of 10 days, you would have 500 left after 10 days; you would have 250 left after 20 days (2 half-lives); and so on.
Measuring the amount of radioactive carbon-14 remaining makes it possible to work out how old the artifact is, whether it's a fossilized skeleton or a magnificent piece of artwork.
After viewing the video on carbon dating, use your newfound knowledge to: Did you know…
It is often used on valuable artwork to confirm authenticity.The half-life is always the same regardless of how many nuclei you have left, and this very useful property lies at the heart of radiocarbon dating. The graph below shows the decay curve (you may recognize it as an exponential decay) and it shows the amount, or percent, of carbon-14 remaining.