Nineteenth century geologists recognized that rocks formed slowly as mountains eroded and sediments settled on the ocean floor.
Darwin had finally gotten the luxury of time he had craved.
The dates that radioactive clocks have put on evolutionary history are astonishing.
Mammals, which for 150 million years had been small, rodent-sized creatures, rapidly evolved to massive proportions in the wake of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction 65 million years ago.
Geological timekeeping continues to be a lively science, with new methods emerging all the time.
While some physicists used these discoveries for applications ranging from nuclear weapons to nuclear medicine, others applied them to understanding the natural world.
The sun was once thought to burn like a coal fire, but physicists showed that it actually generates energy by slamming atoms together and creating new elements.
Darwin had argued that the Earth was immensely old which gave his gradual process of evolution plenty of time to unfold.
The great physicist Lord Kelvin had countered that the planet was actually relatively young perhaps 20 million years old.
And we talk about the word isotope in the chemistry playlist. But this number up here can change depending on the number of neutrons you have. And every now and then-- and let's just be clear-- this isn't like a typical reaction. So instead of seven protons we now have six protons. And a proton that's just flying around, you could call that hydrogen 1. If it doesn't gain an electron, it's just a hydrogen ion, a positive ion, either way, or a hydrogen nucleus. And so this carbon-14, it's constantly being formed. I've just explained a mechanism where some of our body, even though carbon-12 is the most common isotope, some of our body, while we're living, gets made up of this carbon-14 thing.
So carbon by definition has six protons, but the typical isotope, the most common isotope of carbon is carbon-12. And then that carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the rest of the atmosphere, into our oceans. When people talk about carbon fixation, they're really talking about using mainly light energy from the sun to take gaseous carbon and turn it into actual kind of organic tissue.
What I want to do in this video is kind of introduce you to the idea of, one, how carbon-14 comes about, and how it gets into all living things. They can also be alpha particles, which is the same thing as a helium nucleus. And they're going to come in, and they're going to bump into things in our atmosphere, and they're actually going to form neutrons. And we'll show a neutron with a lowercase n, and a 1 for its mass number. And what's interesting about this is this is constantly being formed in our atmosphere, not in huge quantities, but in reasonable quantities. Because as soon as you die and you get buried under the ground, there's no way for the carbon-14 to become part of your tissue anymore because you're not eating anything with new carbon-14.