About one carbon atom in a trillion (10) contains a radioactive nucleus with 6 protons and 8 neutrons — carbon 14.
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The isotopic distribution of carbon on the Earth is roughly 99% carbon 12 (with 6 protons and 6 neutrons) and 1% carbon 13 (with 6 protons and 7 neutrons).
These isotopes are stable, which is why they are with us today, but unstable isotopes are also present in minute amounts.
It was the first absolute scientific method ever invented: that is to say, the technique was the first to allow a researcher to determine how long ago an organic object died, whether it is in context or not.
Shy of a date stamp on an object, it is still the best and most accurate of dating techniques devised.
Radiocarbon dating is one of the best known archaeological dating techniques available to scientists, and the many people in the general public have at least heard of it.
But there are a lot of misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is.What you need is a ruler, a reliable map to the reservoir: in other words, an organic set of objects that you can securely pin a date on, measure its C14 content and thus establish the baseline reservoir in a given year.Fortunately, we do have an organic object that tracks carbon in the atmosphere on a yearly basis: tree rings.The latest curves were ratified at the 21st International Radiocarbon Conference in July of 2012.Within the last few years, a new potential source for further refining radiocarbon curves is Lake Suigetsu in Japan.Beginning in the 1990s, a coalition of researchers led by Paula J.