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In the case of radiocarbon dating, the half-life of carbon 14 is 5,730 years.This half life is a relatively small number, which means that carbon 14 dating is not particularly helpful for very recent deaths and deaths more than 50,000 years ago.Carbon has two stable, nonradioactive isotopes: carbon-12 (12C) and carbon-13 (13C).There are also trace amounts of the unstable radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) on Earth.Archaeologists use the exponential, radioactive decay of carbon 14 to estimate the death dates of organic material.

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Potassium-40 is another radioactive element naturally found in your body and has a half-life of 1.3 billion years.After plants die or are consumed by other organisms, the incorporation of all carbon isotopes, including 14C, stops.Thereafter, the concentration (fraction) of 14C declines at a fixed exponential rate due to the radioactive decay of 14C. ) Comparing the remaining 14C fraction of a sample to that expected from atmospheric 14C allows us to estimate the age of the sample.Radiocarbon dating can be used on samples of bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers.The half-life of a radioactive isotope describes the amount of time that it takes half of the isotope in a sample to decay.

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