How to do carbon dating
Nonradioactive carbon is now flooding the atmosphere, which creates a dilution effect.Though this dilution effect is well-known, its precise scale under different emissions scenarios was not, until now.The Mayan calendar used 3114 BC as their reference.
But that assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock.
This is called the half-life—the amount of time required for one-half of a given number of atoms to disintegrate. The plot of the number of tiles as a function of the number of turns looks like this: Again, I made radioactive spheres disappear when they decayed.
This is fine, because when carbon-14 decays, it produces nitrogen-14. But you could imagine that if you knew that the sample started with 20 percent blue spheres and you knew their half-life, then you could determine the age by examining one frame from the animation.
When it comes to dating archaeological samples, several timescale problems arise.
For example, Christian time counts the birth of Christ as the beginning, AD 1 (Anno Domini); everything that occurred before Christ is counted backwards from AD as BC (Before Christ).