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carbon dating [Q&A]


A student from Bhandarkar’s College asks, what is radio-carbon dating?

There is an isotope of Carbon, 14C, that is radioactive. Chemically, there is a certain probability that it is included in living tissue and the relative proportions are maintained during the life of the organism (be it plant or animal). After the organism dies, the 14C decays with a half-life of 5730 years, and the relative proportion changes. By measuring this proportion and comparing it to how much of it is expected to be present, the age of the remains can be estimated. This method works for ages as high 50,000 years.

For more details, watch this lecture from the Michigan Saturday Morning Physics series, How Old: The Physics of Dating Artifacts (Fred Becchetti, 2006):