The radionuclide 14 C half-life years is produced continuously in the Earth's atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with its constituents. The 14 C atoms formed are mixed with stable carbon in the atmosphere and are dispersed globally through exchange and biogeochemical cycles on time scales much shorter than its half-life. The carbon compounds formed in equilibrium with the atmospheric carbon and become labeled with 14 C, making 14 C a universal constituent of all living forms.
Radioactive isotopes have a variety of applications.
Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50, years. Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts. Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon.
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