Meaning of carbon dating
A detailed description of radiocarbon dating is available at the Wikipedia radiocarbon dating web page.Bottom line: Radiocarbon dating is a technique used by scientists to learn the ages of biological specimens from the distant past.Here’s an example using the simplest atom, hydrogen. Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope of carbon that will eventually decay at a known rate to become carbon-12.
The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.It’s not absolutely constant due to several variables that affect the levels of cosmic rays reaching the atmosphere, such as the fluctuating strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, solar cycles that influence the amount of cosmic rays entering the solar system, climatic changes and human activities.Among the significant events that caused a temporary but significant spike in the atmospheric carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio were above-ground nuclear test detonations in the two decades following World War II.If you ever wondered why nuclear tests are now performed underground, this is why.Most radiocarbon dating today is done using an accelerator mass spectrometer, an instrument that directly counts the numbers of carbon-14 and carbon-12 in a sample.
No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.