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Posted by / 28-Oct-2019 05:13

And then either later in this video or in future videos we'll talk about how it's actually used to date things, how we use it actually figure out that that bone is 12,000 years old, or that person died 18,000 years ago, whatever it might be. So let me just draw the surface of the Earth like that. So then you have the Earth's atmosphere right over here. And 78%, the most abundant element in our atmosphere is nitrogen. And we don't write anything, because it has no protons down here. And what's interesting here is once you die, you're not going to get any new carbon-14. You can't just say all the carbon-14's on the left are going to decay and all the carbon-14's on the right aren't going to decay in that 5,730 years.

This process begins when an organism is no longer able to exchange Carbon with their environment.

Carbon-14 is first formed when cosmic rays in the atmosphere allow for excess neutrons to be produced, which then react with Nitrogen to produce a constantly replenishing supply of carbon-14 to exchange with organisms.

What I want to do in this video is kind of introduce you to the idea of, one, how carbon-14 comes about, and how it gets into all living things. They can also be alpha particles, which is the same thing as a helium nucleus. And they're going to come in, and they're going to bump into things in our atmosphere, and they're actually going to form neutrons. And we'll show a neutron with a lowercase n, and a 1 for its mass number. And what's interesting about this is this is constantly being formed in our atmosphere, not in huge quantities, but in reasonable quantities. Because as soon as you die and you get buried under the ground, there's no way for the carbon-14 to become part of your tissue anymore because you're not eating anything with new carbon-14.

Once an organism is decoupled from these cycles (i.e., death), then the carbon-14 decays until essentially gone.

The half-life of a radioactive isotope (usually denoted by \(t_\)) is a more familiar concept than \(k\) for radioactivity, so although Equation \(\ref\) is expressed in terms of \(k\), it is more usual to quote the value of \(t_\).

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Although it may be seen as outdated, many labs still use Libby's half-life in order to stay consistent in publications and calculations within the laboratory.