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Most of the chronometric dating methods in use today are radiometric. That is to say, they are based on knowledge of the rate at which certain radioactive isotopes within dating samples decay or the rate of other cumulative changes in atoms resulting from radioactivity. Isotopes are specific forms of elements.
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Because 14 C is radioactiveit decays over time—in other words, older artifacts have less 14 C than younger ones.
During this process, an atom of 14 C decays into an atom of 14 N, during which one of the neutrons in the carbon atom becomes a proton. This increases the of protons in the atom by one, creating a nitrogen atom rather than a carbon atom. An electron and an elementary particle, called an antineutrino, are also generated during this process.
The time it takes for 14 C to radioactively decay is described by its half-life. In other words, after 5, years, only half of the original amount of 14 C remains in a sample of organic material. After an additional 5, years—or 11, years total—only a quarter of the 14 C remains.
The amount of 14 C remaining is used to determine the age of organic materials. Thus fossil fuels, which are much much older than 50, years, have no 14 C remaining.
Carbon 14 dating graph is it that there is still 14 C left in the atmosphere or anywhere else on Earth when it is constantly disappearing? Where does new 14 C come from? Cosmic rays are high energy particles that originate in outer space.
When they collide with matter in the atmosphere they can shatter a nucleus into smaller pieces a process called spallationincluding neutrons. The latter slow down, again by colliding with matter in the atmosphere. Once they have slowed down enough a neutron can be absorbed by a nitrogen 14 N nucleus while kicking out a proton, resulting in a 14 C nucleus.