Discovery of carbon 14 dating
If you ever wondered why nuclear tests are now performed underground, this is why. Well, there were no nearby supernovae that happened at that time, so that’s out.
But there is another form of carbon that, while not at all abundant, is definitely worth talking about.From across the galaxy and across the Universe, from stars (including our Sun), pulsars, black holes and more, space is flooded with high-energy particles known as cosmic rays.Most frequently, cosmic rays are protons, but a handful are heavier ions and a few are even humble electrons. Arrange carbon atoms in one way, and they become soft, pliable graphite. — the atoms form diamond, one of the hardest materials in the world.Carbon is also the key ingredient for most life on Earth; the pigment that made the first tattoos; and the basis for technological marvels such as graphene, which is a material stronger than steel and more flexible than rubber.Under very hot temperatures — greater than 100,000,000 Kelvin (179,999,540.6 F) — the helium nuclei begin to fuse, first as pairs into unstable 4-proton beryllium nuclei, and eventually, as enough beryllium nuclei blink into existence, into a beryllium plus a helium.
The end result: Atoms with six protons and six neutrons — carbon.
Well, if carbon-14 can decay into nitrogen-14 and other stuff, then we can create carbon-14 by combining nitrogen-14 with the proper stuff.
In this case, that happens to be a neutron, which allows us to do this: (a.k.a., carbon dioxide) and mixing throughout the atmosphere and oceans, easily making its way into living organisms into a well-understood equilibrium.
But once they interact with the atmosphere, They produce showers of subatomic particles of many different types, including — for our purposes — the all important neutron.
The reason neutrons are so important is because our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, which you may remember as the thing that carbon-14 decays .
, and is so rare that only one-in-a-trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14.