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Carbon dating technique

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    29th Sep, 2022

Context

The District Court in Varanasi allowed a petition seeking Carbon Dating of the structure inside the Gyanvapi mosque that the Hindu side has claimed is a ‘Shivling’.

What is Carbon dating?

  • It is a widely-used method applied to establish the age of organic material, things that were once living. 
    • Living things have carbon in them in various forms. 
  • The dating method makes use of the fact that a particular isotope of carbon called C-14, with an atomic mass of 14, is radioactive, and decays at a rate that is well known.
    • The most abundant isotope of carbon in the atmosphere is carbon-12 or a carbon atom whose atomic mass is 12. 
  • A very small amount of carbon-14 is also present.

Process

  • Plants get their carbon through the process of photosynthesis, while animals get it mainly through food. 
    • Because plants and animals get their carbon from the atmosphere, they too acquire carbon-12 and carbon-14 isotopes in roughly the same proportion as is available in the atmosphere.
    • When they die, the interactions with the atmosphere stop. 
  • Now, carbon-12 is stable and does not decay, while carbon-14 is radioactive. Carbon-14 reduces to one-half of itself in about 5,730 years.
    • This is what is known as its ‘half-life’.
  • So, after a plant or animal dies, the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the body, or its remains, begins to change.
  • This change can be measured and can be used to deduce the approximate time when the organism died.

Applications of Carbon Dating

  • Age and variety of natural and even man-made materials, manuscript dating in archaeology
  • Determine the factors that caused lost species, such as the age of dinosaurs or sea fossils, by studying fossils.
  • Research on civilizations: Carbon dating has been used to successfully determine the majority of civilizations’ ages and ancestry.
  • Researching human history, eating customs, and cultures to better understand evolution and race.
  • Examining meteorites on Earth to learn about the origin of life.

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