Radiocarbon dating half life


Archaeologists use the exponential, radioactive decay of carbon 14 to estimate the death dates of organic material.

Knowing about half-lives is important because it enables you to determine when a sample of radioactive material is safe to handle.Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years— during the succeeding 5,730 years.Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon. Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.Scientists use a technique called radiometric dating to estimate the ages of rocks, fossils, and the earth.

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