Question: Why is carbon-14 so important?

Over time, carbon-14 decays in predictable ways. And with the help of radiocarbon dating, researchers can use that decay as a kind of clock that allows them to peer into the past and determine absolute dates for everything from wood to food, pollen, poop, and even dead animals and humans.Over time, carbon-14 decays in predictable ways. And with the help of radiocarbon dating, researchers can use that decay as a kind of clock that allows them to peer into the past and determine absolute dates

Why is carbon-14 such an important isotope?

“Carbon-14, perhaps the most important isotope to life on Earth, was born.” Carbon-14 has six protons and eight neutrons in its nucleus. Crucially, those two extra neutrons make the nucleus of a carbon-14 atom unstable so that it decays radioactively into an atom of nitrogen.

Why is carbon-14 bad?

Carbon-14 is a low energy beta emitter and even large amounts of this isotope pose little external dose hazard to persons exposed. The critical organ for most 14 C labelled compounds is the fat of the whole body. The most hazardous chemical form of 14 C is labelled carbonates for which the bone is a critical organ.

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