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Carbon dating explained children

By vaporizing graphite with lasers, the scientists created a mysterious new molecule made of pure carbon, according to the American Chemical Society.

This molecule turned out to be a soccer-ball-shaped sphere made of 60 carbon atoms.

Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon used by archaeologists to date objects and remains.

Carbon-14 is naturally occurring in the atmosphere.

[See Periodic Table of the Elements] Carbon occurs naturally as carbon-12, which makes up almost 99 percent of the carbon in the universe; carbon-13, which makes up about 1 percent; and carbon-14, which makes up a minuscule amount of overall carbon but is very important in dating organic objects.

As the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, carbon forms in the belly of stars in a reaction called the triple-alpha process, according to the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

Carbon has four empty spaces in its outer shell, enabling it to bond to four other atoms.

Chemists conceive of these distances as shells, and define the properties of atoms by what is in each shell, according to the University of California, Davis.Carbon chemistry is still hot enough to capture Nobel Prizes: In 2010, researchers from Japan and the United States won one for figuring out how to link carbon atoms together using palladium atoms, a method that enables the manufacture of large, complex carbon molecules, according to the Nobel Foundation.Scientists and engineers are working with these carbon nanomaterials to build materials straight out of science-fiction.Under very hot temperatures — greater than 100,000,000 Kelvin (179,999,540.6 F) — the helium nuclei begin to fuse, first as pairs into unstable 4-proton beryllium nuclei, and eventually, as enough beryllium nuclei blink into existence, into a beryllium plus a helium.The end result: Atoms with six protons and six neutrons — carbon.The research team named their discovery the buckminsterfullerene after an architect who designed geodesic domes.The molecule is now more commonly known as the "buckyball." The researchers who discovered it won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996.In fact, the same element that our prehistoric ancestors burned as charcoal may be the key to next-generation tech materials.In 1985, Rick Smalley and Robert Curl of Rice University in Texas and their colleagues discovered a new form of carbon.Buckyballs have been found to inhibit the spread of HIV, according to a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling; medical researchers are working to attach drugs, molecule-by-molecule, to buckyballs in order to deliver medicine directly to sites of infection or tumors in the body; this includes research by Columbia University, Rice University and others.Since then, other new, pure carbon molecules — called fullerenes — have been discovered, including elliptical-shaped "buckyeggs" and carbon nanotubes with amazing conductive properties.

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