Carbon dating nuclear bomb


26-Jan-2020 14:14

By measuring how many carbon atoms travel along the various paths, scientists can determine how much 14 C is in a sample.Atmospheric 14 C spiked in 1955 and rapidly dropped off after the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, which banned all aboveground detonations.Spalding and her postdoc advisor Jonas Frisén had a hunch that a pulse of radioactive carbon created by above-ground nuclear tests during the Cold War could help solve the riddle.“A geopolitical phenomenon—this Cold War bomb testing—has, in a way, put a date stamp on everything and everybody,” Spalding says.To our bodies, one type of carbon is as good as any other, so 14 C is used when building our cells, our proteins, and our DNA.A cell’s DNA reflects the amount of 14 C in the atmosphere at the time it was made.Most aboveground nuclear bomb testing happened between 19, and those detonations released untold numbers of neutrons into the atmosphere.These slammed into nitrogen atoms, causing their nuclei to eject a proton.

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Radioactive 14 C is incorporated into all living things: by plants that use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, by the animals that eat the plants, by the animals that eat other animals that have eaten plants.In the years leading up to that, Spalding and Frisén pioneered a new field of research, using the Cold War bomb pulse to answer a number of questions about human physiology, including neuron formation and lipid cycling.