Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or C ratio gets smaller.
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Specifically, each nucleus will lose an electron, a process which is referred to as decay.
This rate of decay, thankfully, is constant, and can be easily measured in terms of ‘half-life’.
Protons and neutrons make up the center (nucleus) of the atom, and electrons form shells around the nucleus.
The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom determines the element.
However, a little more knowledge about the exact ins and outs of carbon dating reveals that perhaps it is not quite as fool-proof a process as we may have been led to believe.
At its most basic level, carbon dating is the method of determining the age of organic material by measuring the levels of carbon found in it.
Note that, contrary to a popular misconception, carbon dating is not used to date rocks at millions of years old.
Before we get into the details of how radiometric dating methods are used, we need to review some preliminary concepts from chemistry.
Specifically, there are two types of carbon found in organic materials: carbon 12 (C-12) and carbon 14 (C-14).