After incorporating radioactive atoms into reactant molecules, scientists can track where the atoms go by following their radioactivity.
One excellent example of this is the use of radioactive carbon-14 to determine the steps involved in the photosynthesis in plants.
Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50,000 years old.
This technique is widely used on recent artifacts, but educators and students alike should note that this technique will not work on older fossils (like those of the dinosaurs alleged to be millions of years old).
Carbon-14 cannot be used to date biological artifacts of organisms that did not get their carbon dioxide from the air.
This rules out carbon dating for most aquatic organisms, because they often obtain at least some of their carbon from dissolved carbonate rock.
This fact should always be remembered when using radiocarbon dates.
As you learned in the previous page, carbon dating uses the half-life of Carbon-14 to find the approximate age of certain objects that are 40,000 years old or younger.
In the following section we are going to go more in-depth about carbon dating in order to help you get a better understanding of how it works.
We know these steps because researchers followed the progress of the radioactive carbon-14 throughout the process.
Radioactive isotopes are useful for establishing the ages of various objects.