Man’s curiosity has always led to the opening of new vistas in every field, thus contributing to the development of science and widening the sphere of knowledge. Our natural curiosity about knowing the age of different organisms that once lived on the Earth resulted in developing the technique of carbon dating. It is through carbon dating process, that the age of different fossils of age-old plants and animals can be determined. Radiocarbon and carbon-14 dating are two other names used for carbon dating. Now comes the question: what is this process and how does it help to estimate the age of the fossils? Like all materials, carbon is made up of atoms. A small fraction of all carbon atoms are distinct from the others in the sense that they are radioactive and hence unstable. These atoms have 13 to 14 nucleons whereas the majority contains 12 nucleons. Carbon-14 is radioactive because it is unstable and breaks down, or decays very slowly into other elements. After the break up, they emit a burst of nuclear radiation. Radioactive substances decay at a very slow rate, but are continuously renewed in living organisms. The decay is at a uniform rate. The radiocarbon becomes half in about 5,700 years, which is also known as the half-life. Using this as the basis, the life of any fossil can be determined. Whether it is dating Egyptian mummies or prehistoric fossils, carbon dating is extensively used by the scientists.
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