Cosmic ray protons blast nuclei in the upper atmosphere.docx - Cosmic ray protons blast nuclei in the upper atmosphere producing neutrons which in turn

Cosmic ray protons blast nuclei in the upper...

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Cosmic ray protons blast nuclei in the upper atmosphere, producing neutrons which in turn bombard nitrogen, the major constituent of the atmosphere. This neutron bombardment produces the radioactive isotope carbon-14. The radioactive carbon-14 combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and is incorporated into the cycle of living things. Carbon dating is a variety of radioactive dating which is applicable only to matter which was once living and presumed to be in equilibrium with the atmosphere, taking in carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis. As soon as a living organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon. The ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 at the moment of death is the same as every other living thing, but the carbon-14 decays and is not replaced. The carbon-14 decays with its half-life of 5,700 years, while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant in the sample. By looking at the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of a formerly living thing fairly precisely.
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  • Spring '19
  • Engr. Wendel Basbas

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