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Radiocarbon dating (usually referred to simply as carbon-14 dating) is a radiometric dating method.It uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years old. Carbon-14 has a relatively short half-life of 5,730 years, meaning that the fraction of carbon-14 in a sample is halved over the course of 5,730 years due to radioactive decay to nitrogen-14.Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).Additional complications come from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and from the above-ground nuclear tests done in the 1950s and 1960s.An example of the ingenious technical work and hard-fought debates underlying the main story is the use of radioactive carbon-14 to assign dates to the distant past.For other examples, see the essays on Temperatures from Fossil Shells and Arakawa's Computation Device.Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years.The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of radiocarbon in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.
Radiocarbon dating is used in many fields to learn information about the past conditions of organisms and the environments present on Earth.
The prodigious mobilization of science that produced nuclear weapons was so far-reaching that it revolutionized even the study of ancient climates.
Nuclear laboratories, awash with funds and prestige, spun off the discovery of an amazing new technique radiocarbon dating.
The radioactive isotope carbon-14 is created in the upper atmosphere when cosmic-ray particles from outer space strike nitrogen atoms and transform them into radioactive carbon.
Some of the carbon-14 might find its way into living creatures.