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(For plants, that’s shortly after they fixed CO 2 containing 14 C; for animals, it’s when they ate a plant or animal containing 14 C.) Scientists measure the amount of 14 C in DNA because, while other molecules are frequently refreshed throughout a cell’s life, DNA remains constant.By determining the age of the DNA, researchers can determine when, exactly, a cell was created.Standing outside the low, gray industrial building, she watched as horses went in one side and, about 15 minutes later, a worker appeared on the other end, holding a head, neurons and all.“It was precisely as revolting as it sounds,” she says.
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.
When looking for carbon isotopes, the instrument strips carbon atoms of some of their electrons and launches them into a magnetic field, which alters each atom’s trajectory.
Inertia causes heavier atoms, like 14 C, to take a wider path than lighter ones.
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.