How does c 14 dating work
As explained below, the radiocarbon date tells us when the organism was alive (not when the material was used).
This fact should always be remembered when using radiocarbon dates.
However, when the organism dies, the amount of c14 declines such that the longer the time since death the lower the levels of c14 in organic tissue.
C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).
The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive, though it is not dangerous.
Working with several collaboraters, Libby established the natural occurrence of radiocarbon by detecting its radioactivity in methane from the Baltimore sewer.
In contrast, methane made from petroleum products had no measurable radioactivity.Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.Radiocarbon dating has been one of the most significant discoveries in 20th century science.The dating process is always designed to try to extract the carbon from a sample which is most representative of the original organism.