The following article is primarily based on a discussion of radiocarbon dating found in The Biblical Chronologist Volume 5, Number 1. Radiocarbon dating is based on a few relatively simple principles. The vast majority of these are C (pronounced "c twelve"), the stable isotope of carbon.
However, cosmic radiation constantly collides with atoms in the upper atmosphere.
This discovery meant that there are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon: Whereas carbon-12 and carbon-13 are stable isotopes, carbon-14 is unstable or radioactive.
Carbon-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays bombard nitrogen atoms.
This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radiocarbon.
The atmosphere contains many stable carbon atoms and relatively few radiocarbon atoms.
Radiocarbon dating is a method of estimating the age of organic material.
It was developed right after World War II by Willard F.
The half-life is the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay.
For example, if you start off with 1000 radioactive nuclei with a half-life of 10 days, you would have 500 left after 10 days; you would have 250 left after 20 days (2 half-lives); and so on.
This technique works well for materials up to around 50,000 years old.