Dating the ancient Minoan eruption of Thera using tree rings

New analyses that use tree rings could settle the long-standing debate about when the volcano Thera erupted by resolving discrepancies between archeological and radiocarbon methods of dating the eruption, according to new ...

Woolly mammoth extinction has lessons for modern climate change

Although humans and woolly mammoths co-existed for millennia, the shaggy giants disappeared from the globe between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago, and scientists couldn't explain until recently exactly how the Flinstonian behemoths ...

Neanderthals died out earlier than originally believed

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to a newly released report in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a newly refined method of radiocarbon dating has found that Neanderthals died off much earlier than originally ...

Oldest subarctic North American human remains found

(PhysOrg.com) -- A newly excavated archaeological site in Alaska contains the cremated remains of one of the earliest inhabitants of North America. These remains may provide rare insights into the burial practices of Ice ...

Experts determine age of book 'nobody can read'

(PhysOrg.com) -- While enthusiasts across the world pored over the Voynich manuscript, one of the most mysterious writings ever found – penned by an unknown author in a language no one understands – a research team ...

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Carbon-14

Carbon-14, 14C, or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon discovered on February 27, 1940, by Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben at the University of California Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, though its existence had been suggested already in 1934 by Franz Kurie. Its nucleus contains 6 protons and 8 neutrons. Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method to date archaeological, geological, and hydrogeological samples.

There are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon on Earth: 99% of the carbon is carbon-12, 1% is carbon-13, and carbon-14 occurs in trace amounts, e.g. making up as much as 1 part per trillion (0.0000000001%) of the carbon in the atmosphere. The half-life of carbon-14 is 5,730±40 years. It decays into nitrogen-14 through beta decay. The activity of the modern radiocarbon standard is about 14 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per gram carbon.

The atomic mass of carbon-14 is about 14.003241 amu. The different isotopes of carbon do not differ appreciably in their chemical properties. This is used in chemical research in a technique called carbon labeling: some carbon-12 atoms of a given compound are replaced with carbon-14 atoms (or some carbon-13 atoms) in order to trace them along chemical reactions involving the given compound.

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