Isotope of carbon dating

"Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.

We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].

When isotopes are to be designated specifically, the chemical symbol is expanded to identify the mass (for example, C is not stable.

As a result it is always undergoing natural radioactive decay while the abundances of the other isotopes are unchanged.

Carbon-14 is most abundant in atmospheric carbon dioxide because it is constantly being produced by collisions between nitrogen atoms and cosmic rays at the upper limits of the atmosphere.

The radiocarbon method was developed by a team of scientists led by the late Professor Willard F.

Libby of the University of Chicago in immediate post-WW2 years.

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