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Bristlecone pines grow so slowly that its rings are paper thin; their width has to be studied under a microscope.
Methuselah's tree ring sequence near its core -- when it was a young tree -- was matched to the sequence found in pieces of nearby trees which had died previously. Henry Michael of the University of Pennsylvania's Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) scanned the area almost every summer for over three decades.
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.
The bristlecone pine series, the longest built from a single species in a single location, stretches back to 7040... It is based on thousands of rings from 81 living trees and 118 dead trees, and Michael found more than three-quarters of the samples.
And then after another half life, half of that also turns into a nitrogen-14.
And so this would involve two half lives, which is the same thing as 2 times 5,730 years. You'd say this thing is 11,460 years old, give or take.
Since the time of Libby, the developer of the C-14 analysis, calibration checks have been made using U. Counting tree rings showed that it had germinated in 2726 BCE.