Assignment discovery carbon dating artifacts

Making the job harder still, baffling anomalies turned up.

Assignment discovery carbon dating artifacts

An example of the ingenious technical work and hard-fought debates underlying the main story is the use of radioactive carbon-14 to assign dates to the distant past.

For other examples, see the essays on Temperatures from Fossil Shells and Arakawa's Computation Device.

One application was a timetable of climate changes for tens of thousands of years back.

Many of the traditional chronologies turned out to be far less accurate than scientists had believed — a bitter blow for some who had devoted decades of their lives to the work.

This was all the usual sort of laboratory problem-solving, a matter of sorting out difficulties by studying one or another detail systematically for months.

More unusual was the need to collaborate with all sorts of people around the world, to gather organic materials for dating.

Climate science required the invention and mastery of many difficult techniques.

These had pitfalls, which could lead to controversy.

The radioactive isotope carbon-14 is created in the upper atmosphere when cosmic-ray particles from outer space strike nitrogen atoms and transform them into radioactive carbon.

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