The technique hinges on carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of the element that, unlike other more stable forms of carbon, decays away at a steady rate.
Organisms capture a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere when they are alive.
In relative dating, the temporal order of a sequence of events is determined, allowing the investigator to surmise whether a particular object or event is older or younger than, or occurred before or after, another object or event.
In absolute or chronometric dating, the investigator establishes the age of an object or event in calendar years.
The older an organism's remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.
So, if we measure the rate of beta decay in an organic sample, we can calculate how old the sample is. Question: Kieth and Anderson radiocarbon-dated the shell of a living freshwater mussel and obtained an age of over two thousand years.
In other words, the change in numbers of atoms follows a geometric scale as illustrated by the graph below.other carbon isotopes in the same ratio as exists in the atmosphere.
By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.
But that assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock.
decay or the rate of other cumulative changes in atoms resulting from radioactivity. The various isotopes of the same element differ in terms of atomic mass but have the same atomic number..
One half-life is the amount of time required for of the original atoms in a sample to decay.