Basis of Radiocarbon Dating Problems with Radiocarbon Dating The Earth's Magnetic Field Table 1 Effect of Increasing Earth's Magnetic Field Removal of Carbon From the Biosphere Water Vapour Canopy Effect on Radiocarbon Dating Figure 1 Apparent Radiocarbon Dates Heartwood and Frozen Time Early Post-Flood Trees Appendix Radiocarbon Date Table HOW ACCURATE IS RADIOCARBON DATING? The normal carbon atom has six protons and six neutrons in its nucleus, giving a total atomic mass of 12.Radiocarbon dating is frequently used to date ancient human settlements or tools. It is a stable atom that will not change its atomic mass under normal circumstances.
The radioactive carbon has six protons and eight neutrons in its nucleus, giving it a total atomic mass of 14.
This atom is not stable, and will break down, releasing nuclear energy in the process.
Radioactive carbon (Carbon 14) is formed in the upper atmosphere as a byproduct of cosmic radiation.
Cosmic rays are positively charged atoms moving at enormous speeds.
When they strike ordinary atoms in the upper atmosphere, the cosmic rays smash them apart. Some of these neutrons then collide with nitrogen atoms.
This collision is less destructive than the initial collision that produced them.
Usually a proton is knocked out of the nitrogen atom's nucleus and is replaced with the neutron.
The proton takes an electron with it and becomes an atom of hydrogen.
The nitrogen atom, which began with seven protons and seven neutrons, is left with only six protons and eight neutrons.