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Radiometric dating, or radioactive dating as it is sometimes called, is a method used to date rocks and other objects based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes.
But when the organism dies, the amount of C-14 begins to decrease.
The rule is that a sample is safe when its radioactivity has dropped below detection limits. So, if radioactive iodine-131 (which has a half-life of 8 days) is injected into the body to treat thyroid cancer, it’ll be “gone” in 10 half-lives, or 80 days.
This stuff is important to know when using radioactive isotopes as medical tracers, which are taken into the body to allow doctors to trace a pathway or find a blockage, or in cancer treatments.
Plants absorb C-14 during photosynthesis, so C-14 is incorporated into the cellular structure of plants.
Plants are then eaten by animals, making C-14 a part of the cellular structure of all living things.
Scientists know the half-life of C-14 (5,730 years), so they can figure out how long ago the organism died.