Radioisotopes as tracers in carbon dating
after four half lives only 1/16 or 5.5% of the isotope is left giving an age of 21,600 years.
After seven half lives (37,200 years) there is less than 1% left (.6875% ).
The world we live in contains C-14 in very small amounts.
Unlike the arrangement of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of carbon-12, the arrangement in carbon-14 is unstable.
There is a lot of low level natural radioactivity around us.
For example, our bodies contain radioisotopes, such as potassium-40, which continuously emit radiation, but because the amount is very low, no damage is done.
Atoms of carbon-14 undergo a random rearrangement in a process called radioactive decay. The time taken for a given amount of carbon-14 to decay so that only half of it remains is called the half-life. Scientists can use this to calculate the age of very old items of archaeological interest, provided they have a plant or animal origin.
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This makes any age greater than 40,000 years suspect.