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Half life and carbon 14 dating

Below is a chart of commonly used radiometric isotopes, their half-lives, and the daughter isotopes they decay into.

Let's say you found a fossil you think to be a human skeleton.

The radiocarbon method was developed by a team of scientists led by the late Professor Willard F.

As radioactive isotopes of elements decay, they lose their radioactivity and become a brand new element known as a daughter isotope.

By measuring the ratio of the amount of the original radioactive element to the daughter isotope, scientists can determine how many half-lives the element has undergone and from there can figure out the absolute age of the sample.

You would need to have access to scientific instruments at this point that could measure the amount of radioactivity in the sample, so off to the lab we go!

After you prepare your sample and put it into the machine, your readout says you have approximately 75% Nitrogen-14 and 25% Carbon-14.

"Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.

We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].

After two half-lives, another half of your leftover Carbon-14 would have decayed into Nitrogen-14.

Half of 50% is 25%, so you would have 25% Carbon-14 and 75% Nitrogen-14.

Now it is time to put those math skills to good use.

At one half-life, you would have approximately 50% Carbon-14 and 50% Nitrogen-14.

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