Carbon dating explained children

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And that something else starts where Earth meets space.Earth's upper atmosphere is constantly being bombarded by cosmic rays (usually protons travelling at nearly the speed of light).So calculating the age range of a once-living sample involves measuring the 14C/12C ratio, and using this the known half-life to estimate the length of time since the sample died.That age range is then compared with known 14C/12C ratios from the tree ring/marine record to find the best match, and the result is a calibrated age range you can be 95 per cent sure of.So the proportion of carbon-14 inside living things is the same as the proportion of carbon-14 in the atmosphere at that time.But when we stop eating, or when plants stop photosynthesising, our carbon-14 levels no longer get topped up.For a rare event it happens pretty damn often — one million carbon-14 atoms in your body decay into nitrogen every minute!

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After five half-lives (28,650 years) only 1/32 remains.

And nuclear reactions have seen a leap in carbon-14 activity since 1945.

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