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These excited neutrons then collide with nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere, changing them into radioactive carbon-14 atoms.
Next comes the question of how scientists use this knowledge to date things.After radiocarbon forms, the nuclei of the carbon-14 atoms are unstable, so over time they progressively decay back to nuclei of stable nitrogen-14.3 A neutron breaks down to a proton and an electron, and the electron is ejected. The ejected electrons are called beta particles and make up what is called beta radiation. Different carbon-14 atoms revert to nitrogen-14 at different times, which explains why radiocarbon decay is considered a random process.To measure the rate of decay, a suitable detector records the number of beta particles ejected from a measured quantity of carbon over a period of time, say a month (for illustration purposes).Many people assume that rocks are dated at “millions of years” based on radiocarbon (carbon-14) dating. The most well-known of all the radiometric dating methods is radiocarbon dating. Carbon-14 can yield dates of only “thousands of years” before it all breaks down.