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It also has some applications in geology; its importance in dating organic materials cannot be underestimated enough.
In 1979, Desmond Clark said of the method “we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation” (3).
When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14.
Typically (6): The above list is not exhaustive; most organic material is suitable so long as it is of sufficient age and has not mineralised - dinosaur bones are out as they no longer have any carbon left."Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].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.Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.