The carbon is a chemical element whose atomic number is 6, which is very abundant in nature and is present in living organisms. It called carbon – 14 or carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of this element.
The isotopes are chemical elements that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Protons and neutrons are elementary particles. The radioactive, for its part, is something that has radioactivity: the property of some bodies to emit radiation when they decay.
According to DigoPaul, carbon 14, which is also often referred to as radiocarbon, is an isotope of carbon that has six protons and eight neutrons. The discoverers of carbon 14 were scientists Sam Ruben and Martin Kamen, who discovered the existence of this element in 1940.
The importance of carbon 14 lies in the possibility of using it for the dating of ancient objects. This is possible thanks to the so – called law of exponential decay governing radioactive isotopes.
The cosmic radiation causes the carbon 14 to continuously occur in the atmosphere. This isotope spontaneously transmutes into nitrogen 14, which mixes with other atoms that are not radioactive in atmospheric carbon dioxide. By photosynthesis, plants absorb the radioactive atom. By eating plants, animals also take in the carbon found in vegetables. Once the living being dies, no more carbon-14 atoms are incorporated into its body, so the concentration of the isotope is gradually reduced by the aforementioned law of exponential decay.
The experts determined that, after 5,730 years after the death of the living being, the amount of carbon 14 in its remains is reduced by half. Therefore, by measuring the radioactivity of the remains, it is possible to calculate how much carbon 14 remains and thus determine the date of death.
Throughout history, many discoveries have been made using the carbon 14 test. Thus, for example, in the 1980’s, the archbishopric of Turin together with the Vatican itself selected three laboratories specialized in that process so that they could determine if the well-known Shroud of Turin was authentic or not. For this, a small piece was cut from the shroud and divided into three samples.
The result certainly failed to meet the expectations of the ecclesiastical authorities at all. And it was determined that the sheet had been woven in the period between 1262 and 1384.
In the same way, other discoveries have been made, such as two extracts from the Koran dating from the time of Muhammad or the dating of the Neanderthal fossils from the El Sidrón cave (Asturias) 49,000 years ago, among others.
At present it has become known that various situations are occurring that seriously endanger carbon 14. Thus, for example, experts in the field highlight, above all, what is pollution and also the so-called Suess effect.
The physicist Hans Suess is the one who has established that there is a distortion of the amounts of carbon 14 that different organisms have. This has been taking place for approximately two and a half centuries as industrialization was the trigger for this to occur.