And carbon 14 dating
Both Carbon-12 and Carbon-13 are stable, but Carbon-14 decays by very weak beta decay to nitrogen-14 with a half-life of approximately 5,730 years.After the organism dies it stops taking in new carbon.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.
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.
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.
So the rate at which this happens, so the rate of carbon-14 decay, is essentially half disappears, half gone, in roughly 5,730 years. Even better, maybe you dig a little deeper, and you find another bone. And you say, wow, you know this thing right over here has 1/4 the carbon-14 that I would expect to find in something living. Well, if it only has 1/4 the carbon-14 it must have gone through two half lives.
However, at the moment of death, the amount of carbon-14 begins to decrease because it is unstable, while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant in the sample.
Half of the carbon-14 degrades every 5,730 years as indicated by its half-life.