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The sample will give us about a dozen counts an hour.
Twenty half-lives, or 114,000 years, will reduce the original abundance of C-14 by about a million.
Love-hungry teenagers and archaeologists agree: dating is hard.
But while the difficulties of single life may be intractable, the challenge of determining the age of prehistoric artifacts and fossils is greatly aided by measuring certain radioactive isotopes.
When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14.
How do scientists know how old an object or human remains are?
The C-14 combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, plants take in the radioactive carbon dioxide, animals eat the plants, and so all living things on earth have a constant level of C-14: roughly one atom in a trillion.
When an organism dies, it stops taking in carbon-14 and the carbon-14 it already contains starts to decay.
Until this century, relative dating was the only technique for identifying the age of a truly ancient object.
By examining the object's relation to layers of deposits in the area, and by comparing the object to others found at the site, archaeologists can estimate when the object arrived at the site.
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Carbon-14 dating is a way of determining the age of certain archeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50,000 years old.