However, we leave the actual task of understanding radiocarbon dating to the boffin elite – we accept their conclusions blindly, respect the precision of their equipment and admire their genius.In truth, the principles of radiocarbon dating are astoundingly simple and readily accessible.
A hydrocarbon found in beach sediments, for example, might derive from an oil spill or from waxes produced by plants.
They have masses of 13 and 14 respectively and are referred to as "carbon-13" and "carbon-14." If two atoms have equal numbers of protons but differing numbers of neutrons, one is said to be an "isotope" of the other.
Carbon-13 and carbon-14 are thus isotopes of carbon-12.
Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.
Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.
Furthermore, the presumption that radiocarbon dating is an "exact science" is erroneous and in all fairness few scientists make this claim anyway.