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Carbon-14 only works for things between 3 and 40 thousand years old. Carbon dating is based on an isotope of carbon, carbon 14, that's unstable. We breathe in carbon dioxide, we eat carbon, we take in carbon and so our bodies continually renewing our supply of carbon 14.
It decays with a half life of 5700 years into nitrogen 14 and electron and an electron antineutreno. So for that reason, every living thing that is interacting with its environment is expected to have this natural abundance of carbon 14. But when something dies, now it's not interacting with the environment anymore. We know that the amount at time t is equal to the initial amount times one half to the time over the half life, alright?
(For brevity's sake, hereafter I will refer to the parent isotope as ).
In addition, it requires that these measurements be taken from several different objects which all formed at the same time from a common pool of materials.So this is just an ordinary beta decay process and this carbon fourteen's half life is way way way too short for any carbon to just kind of exist naturally in the atmosphere, you'd think, not quite right. So that mean that 1.3 times 10 to the -12 carbon 14 atoms, exist for each and every carbon 12 atom in nature. So you'd think that if you got this 1.3 times 10 to the -12 carbon 14 atoms for each carbon 12 atom at some time, well then 5700 years later, half of the carbon 14 will have decayed. But in fact what happens is, cosmic rays from the sun interact with the upper atmosphere and they actually create carbon 14, at this rate so that in equilibrium, 1.3 times 10 to the -12 carbon 14 atoms will exist for every carbon 12 atom. It's no longer replenishing its carbon 14 supply. This is our standard radioactive decay formula, always works.So that's taking into account all the decays and all that stuff, this is a natural abundance. And that means that as time goes on, the carbon 14 abundance will decrease. So the amount that we've got at our time now is 0.5 times 10 to the -12.The ages are expressed in years before present (BP) where "present" is defined as AD 1950.Uncalibrated radiocarbon dates should be clearly noted as such by "uncalibrated years BP", because they are not identical to calendar dates.Note that the mere existence of these assumptions do not render the simpler dating methods entirely useless.