Radiocarbon Dating

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Radiocarbon dating is based on the fact that all plants take in a certain amount of Carbon-14 when they utilize carbon dioxide (CO2) for photosynthesis. Since Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of Carbon (Carbon-12), it decays until 50% of its original material is left, and it becomes Nitrogen-14. This decay rate is known as the half-life, which was calculated by scientists to be approximately 5730 years for Carbon-14. If the original amount of Carbon-14 in a specimen of organic material is , known, then its age can be determined by measuring the amount of Carbon-14 left. For example, if 50% of the Carbon-14 remains in a piece of burned wood (charcoal) then that piece of wood is 5730 years old. Radiocarbon dating is gaining further usefulness due to the fact that it can now date a wider range of materials and do it using smaller amounts of them.