BBC Bitesize - GCSE Combined Science - Radioactive decay - AQA - Revision 3

The half-life of radioactive carbon is 5, years. If a sample of a tree (for example) contains 64 grams (g) of radioactive carbon after 5, years it will. Frank William Libby invented the method of using the half-life of carbon to date objects,. 2. Radiocarbon dating is used to date a variety of sources but the. Archaeology - for the purpose of dating materials and artefacts made from wood. Chemists - Tree rings are the method by which radiocarbon dates are.

A block of radioactive material will contain many trillions of nuclei and not all nuclei are likely to decay at the same time so it is impossible to tell when a particular nucleus will decay.

It is not possible to say which particular nucleus will decay next, but given that there are so many of them, it is possible to say that a certain number will decay in a certain time. Scientists cannot tell when a particular nucleus will decay, but they can use statistical methods to tell when half the unstable nuclei in a sample will have decayed. This is called the half-life.

Count-rate is the number of decays recorded each second by a detector, such as the Geiger-Muller tube. The illustration below shows how a radioactive sample is decaying over time. From the start of timing it takes two days for the count to halve from 80 down to It takes another two days for the count rate to halve again, this time from 40 to Note that this second two days does not see the count drop to zero, only that it halves again.

A third, two day period from four days to six days see the count rate halving again from 20 down to This process continues and although the count rate might get very small, it does not drop to zero completely. There is much we can learn about the past climate, how freak season-long weather conditions, or periods of climate change have affected tree growth and how it may affect our climate in future.

American Astronomre A E Douglass, who had a strong interest in studying the climate, developed the method around 4. He theorised that tree rings could be used as proxy data to extend climate study back further than had previously been permissible.

He was right, and the more trees that were added to the record, the greater the size of the data could be extrapolated and the more complete picture we could build of our past climate.

It was not until the s that archaeologists saw the benefits of the use of tree ring data in their own field 8even though Douglass himself had used his method to date many prehistoric North American artefacts and monuments that had previously not been satisfactorily placed into a definite chronology. In each growth season, trees create a new ring that reflects the weather conditions of that growth season. On its own, a single record can tell us only a little about the environmental conditions of the time in a specific year of the growth of the tree, and of course the age of the tree at felling, but when we put hundreds and thousands of tree-ring records together, it can tell us a lot more.

Most importantly, assuming there are no gaps in the record and even if there are short gapsit can tell us the precise year that a certain tree ring grew 4. The potential then, even with these two simple sets of data that we may extrapolate from the tree ring data, is enormous. It is an accurate and reliable dating method with a large number of uses in environmental studiesarchaeology and everything in between.

The method has gone from strength to strength and is now a vital method across multiple disciplines. From the s, several seminal studies began at the University of Arizona 67 studying the bristlecone pine of California and hohenheim oak in Germany.

radiocarbon dating coursework - GCSE Science - Marked by ordendelsantosepulcro.info

Thanks to the work of these studies, we now have an 8, year chronology for the bristlecone pine and in the region of 12, year chronology for the oak. This enormous and comprehensive data set is fundamental to both European and North American studies of the palaeoclimate and prehistory 8. Dendrochronology Defining Principles 3: Uniformity - that any individual tree ring record may be calibrated against the sum total of the existing record in order that it can be placed in the chronology.

When calibrated, we should be able to tell precisely which year a certain ring was created Limiting factors - that certain weather and climate conditions have an effect on the tree ring growth in any given year or season Aggregation - The strength of the tree ring record is that variations for local conditions are taken into account and any tree ring data set should slot nicely into the existing record Ecological amplitude - Certain tree species will only grow in certain areas.

Some like wet, salty soil and others prefer dry, acidic soil; there are preferences for temperature, humidity and most have an elevation limit. The best records are those taken from the margins of the land that the species prefer because it is here we see the most variations in tree ring growth There is one major drawback to dendrochronology and that is that we can only date the rings in the tree. This says nothing about either when the particular tree was felled, nor about the date it was used 8.

BBC Bitesize - GCSE Physics (Single Science) - Uses and hazards of radiation - Revision 1

In past times, good quality timber may have been reused 10 and for the archaeologist, it is important to check other records against the new data. Some trees are also better than others for study 5. Notes on Reliability Tree species vary greatly.

In this article we make the assumption that growth is annual with a distinct growing season. Most tree species are reliable; oak is the most reliable tree type for tree rings - with not a single known case of a missing annual growth ring.

Birch and willow are not used at all because of the erratic nature of their growth cycle. Since the changes to the climate since the industrial revolution, some of the more recent dendrochronology records have become erratic 9 and in higher elevations, tree ring data has declined - we are seeing more variability than ever before In times before we had modern treatment of wood, people often drained trees of sap after felling and prior to use of the timber.

The removal of the sap, and sometimes the heartwood, can seriously affect the wood's reliability as an artefact for dating A good dendrochronology study depends heavily on a lack of a repeated pattern.

We expect, due to the changing nature of the climate, that each year will have a distinct pattern in the record 9. No pattern is likely to be repeated perfectly but it is certainly possible. All permutations must be examined and, if necessary, check the record against known external information. Radiocarbon Dating Part of the dendrochronological record is also to measure the amount of carbon in the tree sample, because of this lengthy record we will know the exact date that a tree ring was created inside the living organism.

This ongoing record then, is vital to dating organic material through radiocarbon dating. The amount of radiocarbon isotope in the artefact is compared against tree ring data for calibration, and it is always calibrated against organic material of known age 8. The comprehensive nature of the tree ring record is the perfect database against which to calibrate when we are trying to date organic materials.

Most records will be unique and this should, in theory, give an absolute date for the artefact; if they have an identical level of the isotope, we can safely conclude that they are of the same age Finding a precise year is rarely so clear-cut so a range of dates is selected, hence that radiocarbon dates always come with an error factor.

It is certainly the oldest datable footpath in the world if we define footpath as something artificial and deliberately created for the purpose of getting around a geographical area, rather than a path that has evolved from trampling. Until the s, it was notoriously difficult to date waterlogged archaeological sites, which was frustrating for researchers because organic material such as wood rarely finds itself in areas where it might easily survive.