The basis of radiocarbon dating is simple: all living things absorb carbon from the atmosphere and food sources around them, including a certain amount of natural, radioactive carbon-14. When the plant or animal dies, they stop absorbing, but the radioactive carbon that theyve accumulated continues to decay.
How is carbon dating used to tell when an organism died?
Scientists can determine how long ago an organism died by measuring how much carbon-14 is left relative to the carbon-12. Carbon-14 has a half life of 5730 years, meaning that 5730 years after an organism dies, half of its carbon-14 atoms have decayed to nitrogen atoms.
How can carbon 14 dating can provide the age of a dead animal or plant?
Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon, with a half-life of 5,730 years. It decays within fixed rate of time. The carbon-14 decays at this constant rate. It estimates the date at which an organism died by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.
Why do we use carbon-14 for dating the age of dead things?
Every 5,730 years, the radioactivity of carbon-14 decays by half. That half-life is critical to radiocarbon dating. Since carbon-12 doesnt decay, its a good benchmark against which to measure carbon-14s inevitable demise. The less radioactivity a carbon-14 isotope emits, the older it is.