Definition of carbon dating for kids
The curie was named after Marie and Pierre Curie who discovered the element radium. The half-life of an isotope is the time on average that it takes for half of the atoms in a sample to decay. This means that if you have a sample of carbon with 1, atoms, of these atoms are expected to decay over the course of years.
Some of the atoms may decay right away, while others will not decay for many thousands more years.
A very small percentage of carbon, however, consists of the isotope carbon 14, or , which is unstable.
Carbon 14 has a half-life of 5,780 years, and is continuously created in Earth's atmosphere through the interaction of nitrogen and gamma rays from outer space.
You probably have seen or read news stories about fascinating ancient artifacts.
At an archaeological dig, a piece of wooden tool is unearthed and the archaeologist finds it to be 5,000 years old.
Carbon is one of the most important elements to life on planet Earth.
It forms more compounds than any other element and forms the basis to all plant and animal life.
Once an organism is dead, however, no new carbon is actively absorbed by its tissues, and its carbon 14 gradually decays.
Diamonds are also used for their hardness in cutting tools and precision instruments. People have known about carbon as a substance since ancient times.