It also has some applications in geology; its importance in dating organic materials cannot be underestimated enough.
In 1979, Desmond Clark said of the method “we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation” (3).
The other two isotopes in comparison are more common than carbon-14 in the atmosphere but increase with the burning of fossil fuels making them less reliable for study (2); carbon-14 also increases, but its relative rarity means its increase is negligible. After this point, other Absolute Dating methods may be used.
Today, the radiocarbon-14 dating method is used extensively in environmental sciences and in human sciences such as archaeology and anthropology.
Typically (6): The above list is not exhaustive; most organic material is suitable so long as it is of sufficient age and has not mineralised - dinosaur bones are out as they no longer have any carbon left.
The sample passes through several accelerators in order to remove as many atoms as possible until the C pass into the detector.
These latter atoms are used as part of the calibration process to measure the relative number of isotopes (9).
AMS counts the quantity of C isotope is constantly formed in the upper atmosphere thanks to the effects of cosmic rays on nitrogen-14 atoms.
It is oxidised quickly and absorbed in great quantities by all living organisms - animal and plant, land and ocean dwelling alike.