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The half-life is always the same regardless of how many nuclei you have left, and this very useful property lies at the heart of radiocarbon dating. The graph below shows the decay curve (you may recognize it as an exponential decay) and it shows the amount, or percent, of carbon-14 remaining.

You will notice that after around 40,000 years (or 8 half-lives), the amount left is starting to become very small, less than 1%.

It is often used on valuable artwork to confirm authenticity.

For example, look at this image of the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb near Luxor, Egypt during the 1920s.

Try it risk-free Ever wondered how scientists know the age of old bones in an ancient site or how old a scrap of linen is?

Each radioactive isotope decays by a fixed amount, and this amount is called the half-life.Atmospheric carbon-14 rapidly reacts with oxygen in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the carbon cycle.Plants take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and the carbon-14 makes its way up the food chain and into all living organisms.Radioactive carbon-14 is continually formed in the atmosphere by the bombardment of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen-14 atoms.After it forms, carbon-14 naturally decomposes, with a half-life of 5,730 years, through beta-particle decay.

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