Our mission is to explore and understand the ocean and to educate scientists, students, decision-makers, and the public. Some examples of the types of material that radiocarbon can determine the ages of are wood, charcoal, marine and freshwater shell, bone and antler, and peat and organic-bearing sediments. This equilibrium persists in living organisms as long as they continue living, but when they die, they no longer 'breathe' or eat new 14 carbon isotopes Now it's fairly simple to determine how many total carbon atoms should be in a sample given its weight and chemical makeup. And given the fact that the ratio of carbon 14 to carbon 12 in living organisms is approximately 1: The rate at which 14C decays is absolutely constant. That's actually kind of cool. This process is constantly occurring, and has been for a very long time, so there is a fairly constant ratio of carbon 14 atoms to carbon 12 atoms in the atmosphere. The abundance of 14C in an organic molecule thus provides information about the source of its carbon. Radiocarbon dating is a method of estimating the age of organic material. However, as soon as any carbon drops out of the cycle of biological processes - for example, through burial in mud or soil - the abundance of 14C begins to decline.
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