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Now that we have looked at our critical pieces we can put them together to find how old the dinosaur fossil is.Going back to our analogy with the cake, each form of Carbon (ingredients) exist in set ratios.Have you ever wondered how the scientists knew the age of the bone?After all, the scientists haven’t been around that long, have they?So something that lived (and died) when the proportion of C was less than normal would appear to have died more years ago than it actually did (for example, it might give an age of 3,000 years before the present, rather than its true age of 2,000 years).Even many archaeologists don’t think ‘carbon dating’ is completely accurate all the time.
Yet when they die, they can no longer take in Carbon.Now remembering that animals can intake Carbon and cannot take in more at death, the ratios that exist at the death of the animal is then the exact as the Earth (the ratios in the cake).The amount of Carbon 14 (sugar) broken down with respect to the Carbon 12 and 13 (flour and butter) can be used to determine how old the fossil (cookie) is based on the half life of Carbon 14.Check out the Featured Series page for past post on Nuclear Reactions and see whats coming up.
Devin Virassammy is a Chemical Engineering student who facilitates discussion at the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley.
We know that our Carbon 12 and 13 will be stable (12 year old with 12 books or 13 books), but our Carbon 14 on the other hand will not be stable (12 year old with 14 books) and will begin to break down into Carbon 12 and 13.