Archaeological dating radioisotopes

This discovery meant that there are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon: Whereas carbon-12 and carbon-13 are stable isotopes, carbon-14 is unstable or radioactive.

Carbon-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays bombard nitrogen atoms.

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Cosmic rays enter the earth's atmosphere in large numbers every day and when one collides with an atom in the atmosphere, it can create a secondary cosmic ray in the form of an energetic neutron.During the lifetime of an organism, the amount of c14 in the tissues remains at an equilibrium since the loss (through radioactive decay) is balanced by the gain (through uptake via photosynthesis or consumption of organically fixed carbon).However, when the organism dies, the amount of c14 declines such that the longer the time since death the lower the levels of c14 in organic tissue.Radioactivity and radioactive decay are spontaneous processes.Students often struggle with this concept; therefore, it should be stressed that it is impossible to know exactly when each of the radioactive elements in a rock will decay.

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    He was appointed a commissioner in 1954, becoming its sole scientist.