Start Carbon 14 dating works

Carbon 14 dating works

With an extra neutron and one less proton, that's no longer a nitrogen atom — six protons plus eight neutrons spells carbon-14.

And the longer dead things lie around, the lower the carbon-14 levels get.

(You can read up on radioactivity and isotopes here).

Carbon-14, the radioactive version of carbon, is rare — it only makes up one trillionth of all the carbon in the world.

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.