This property makes it especially useful in a process known as “radiocarbon dating”, or carbon dating for short.Radiocarbon enters the biosphere through natural processes like eating and breathing.
And then you can use that rate to actually determine how long ago that thing must've died. It would be a pretty reasonable estimate to say, well, that thing must be 5,730 years old. But what's interesting is that a small fraction of carbon-14 forms, and then this carbon-14 can then also combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.And carbon-14 is constantly doing this decay thing. So over the course of 5,730 years, roughly half of them will have decayed. Well, if you know that all living things have a certain proportion of carbon-14 in their tissue, as kind of part of what makes them up, and then if you were to find some bone-- let's just say find some bone right here that you dig it up on some type of archaeology dig.This process causes a proton to be displaced by a neutron, effectively turning atoms of Nitrogen it into an isotope of carbon – known as”radiocarbon”.It is naturally radioactive and unstable, and will therefore spontaneously decay back into N-14 over a period of time.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.