Transcript for scene 20 of the video " Climate Change Action and Cosmic Dynamics #2" by Rolf Witzsche  

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What is Carbon-14?

What is Carbon-14? 

Carbon-14 is an unnatural carbon atom that is created by solar cosmic-ray flux acting on the Earth's atmosphere. The density of this unnatural isotope can be precisely measured. It thereby establishes a basis for measuring historic solar cosmic-ray flux.

The natural atomic structure of the carbon atom is made up of 6 protons and 6 neutrons in its core, which renders it to be Carbon-12. In the 1940s the existence of a rare Carbon-14 isotope has been discovered, which is heavier. The Carbon-14 gets the designation, 14, because it has two extra neutrons attached. C-14 is rare in the atmosphere, in the order of two parts per trillion. But it is measurable. 

The only known natural source for carbon-14 in the air, is the interaction of solar cosmic-ray flux with atoms in the atmosphere that by the collision emit a free neutron. the free neutron subsequently collides with an atom of atmospheric nitrogen. In this secondary collision, one of the protons of the nitrogen atom is displaced by the colliding neutron. In the process the nitrogen atom becomes transformed into a Carbon-14 isotope. 

The Carbon-14 isotope is widely used for carbon dating purposes, because the unnatural precarious isotope decays with a half-life of 5,730 years. The rate of decay is used for dating organic objects. But this is not the only use for which the isotope is valuable. The Carbon-14 measurement is also used as a direct measurement for the solar cosmic-ray flux, which creates the isotope in the first place. The result is amazing. 


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Published by Cygni Communications Ltd. North Vancouver, BC, Canada - (C) in public domain - producer Rolf A. F. Witzsche