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Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years, meaning that every 5,700 years or so the object loses half its carbon-14.

Samples from the past 70,000 years made of wood, charcoal, peat, bone, antler or one of many other carbonates may be dated using this technique.

It takes another 5,730 for half of the remainder to decay, and then another 5,730 for half of what's left then to decay and so on.

The period of time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is called a "half-life." Radiocarbon oxidizes (that is, it combines with oxygen) and enters the biosphere through natural processes like breathing and eating.

When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.Carbon-14 is also passed onto the animals that eat those plants.After death the amount of carbon-14 in the organic specimen decreases very regularly as the molecules decay.The amount of cosmic rays penetrating the earth's atmosphere is itself affected by things like the earth's magnetic field which deflects cosmic rays.Precise measurements taken over the last 140 years have shown a steady decay in the strength of the earth's magnetic field.

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