Carbon dating made easy

It is then incorporated into all living organisms by means of the food chain.After an organism dies, its level of carbon-14 gradually declines at a predictable pace, with a half-life of about 5,730 years.Natural and anthropogenic fluctuations in environmental radiocarbon levels mean that organisms living in different centuries within the past 500 years can have identical radiocarbon contents.

The radioactive carbon is taken from the atmosphere and incorporated into plant tissues by plant photosynthesis.Archaeologists precisely measure levels of the isotope in organic remains.Knowing the halflife, they back calculate how much time must have passed since the remains had levels identical to living organisms.Carbon is naturally in all living organisms and is replenished in the tissues by eating other organisms or by breathing air that contains carbon.At any particular time all living organisms have approximately the same ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in their tissues.

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