What is radioactive dating
Radiocarbon dating is normally suitable for organic materials less than 50 000 years old because beyond that time the amount of 14C becomes too small to be accurately measured.
This scheme was developed in 1937 but became more useful when mass spectrometers were improved in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Radioactive dating is a method of dating rocks and minerals using radioactive isotopes.
This method is useful for igneous and metamorphic rocks, which cannot be dated by the stratigraphic correlation method used for sedimentary rocks. Some do not change with time and form stable isotopes (i.e.
The relationship between the two is: T = 0.693 / λ Many different radioactive isotopes and techniques are used for dating.
Its great advantage is that most rocks contain potassium, usually locked up in feldspars, clays and amphiboles.The amount of 14C present and the known rate of decay of 14C and the equilibrium value gives the length of time elapsed since the death of the organism.This method faces problems because the cosmic ray flux has changed over time, but a calibration factor is applied to take this into account.All living organisms take up carbon from their environment including a small proportion of the radioactive isotope 14C (formed from nitrogen-14 as a result of cosmic ray bombardment).
The amount of carbon isotopes within living organisms reaches an equilibrium value, on death no more is taken up, and the 14C present starts to decay at a known rate.
The rate of decay (given the symbol λ) is the fraction of the 'parent' atoms that decay in unit time.