Carbon dating the process
Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.
Until such time that another method becomes available – and one that produces smaller margins of error – it will remain the method of choice for archeology, paleontology, and other branches of scientific research. Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. Cosmic rays – high-energy particles from beyond the solar system – bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere continually, in the process creating the unstable carbon-14. Because it’s unstable, carbon-14 will eventually decay back to carbon-12 isotopes.Because the cosmic ray bombardment is fairly constant, there’s a near-constant level of carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in Earth’s atmosphere.Bottom line: Radiocarbon dating is a technique used by scientists to learn the ages of biological specimens from the distant past.Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.