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The math behind radiocarbon dating

I was just reading the latest issue of Wired on my iPad and came across this cool article which explains the math behind radiocarbon dating.

Living things constantly consume carbon—through photosynthesis, for plants, and for animals, ingestion of those plants. The atmospheric ratio of carbon-14 to regular carbon-12 remains consistent at one part per trillion, so if something is alive, one-trillionth of its carbon atoms will be C-14. But once a plant or animal dies, its carbon-14 is no longer replenished. C-14 is radioactive and unstable, with a half-life of 5,730 years, which means that half the atoms will turn back into nitrogen over that period. That rate of decay is key to gauging age.

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Story: Julie Rehmeyer, Wired | Photo: Mario Hugo, Wired

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