Carbon 14 dating dinosaur bones
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.
This discussion is a simplified introduction to radiocarbon dating.
There are exceptions to the theories and relationships introduced below that are beyond the scope of this discussion.
A reaction occurs and a tiny number of these collisions convert nitrogen to carbon-14.
This carbon-14 immediately starts to radioactively decay but is constantly being recreated.
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.
Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years, meaning that every 5,700 years or so the object loses half its carbon-14.
Samples from the past 70,000 years made of wood, charcoal, peat, bone, antler or one of many other carbonates may be dated using this technique.
From that time forward, the only process at work in the body is radioactive decay.
Eventually, all the carbon-14 in the remains will disappear.