Radiocarbon dating of fossils

Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.

When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.

Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.

Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating.

Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods.It is naturally unstable and so it will spontaneously decay back into N-14 after a period of time.It takes about 5,730 years for half of a sample of radiocarbon to decay back into nitrogen.Carbon-13 and carbon-14 are thus isotopes of carbon-12.Isotopes participate in the same chemical reactions but often at differing rates.

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