Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5730 +/- 40 years, which is about 3 billion minutes. Organisms, whether they are plants or animals, will absorb C14 throughout their lives from what is present in the atmosphere when they were alive. When they die, the C14 is no longer taken up by their systems and so whatever remains in their body at the time of death starts to decay. So, this useful in getting a handle on the organisms age, assuming you know what the level of C14 in the atmosphere was. You measure how much C14 is remaining in your long deceased carbonaceous discovery, turn the crank on your radio-carbon dating machine, and can determine how long ago the organism lived. This technique is useful for determining age to about 60,000 years.
Now let's bring in the woo. Examine the half-lives of atoms with similar nuclear weights to Carbon-14:
- Carbon-11------20 minutes
- Oxygen-14-----1 minute
- Oxygen-15-----2 minutes
- Nitrogen-13----10 minutes
We present shell model calculations for the beta-decay of the 14C ground state to the 14N ground state, treating the states of the A=14 multiplet as two 0p holes in an 16O core. We employ low-momentum nucleon-nucleon (NN) interactions derived from the realistic Bonn-B potential and find that the Gamow-Teller matrix element is too large to describe the known lifetime. By using a modified version of this potential that incorporates the effects of Brown-Rho scaling medium modifications, we find that the GT matrix element vanishes for a nuclear density around 85% that of nuclear matter. We find that the splitting between the (J,T)=(1+,0) and (J,T)=(0+,1) states in 14N is improved using the medium-modified Bonn-B potential and that the transition strengths from excited states of 14C to the 14N ground state are compatible with recent experiments.Yeah...I know. Typical bar-scene pickup lines. But if you're a creationist, you can look past all this and be amazed at what a wonderful tool radiocarbon dating is. After all, it allows us to plumb the depths of human history and accurately date some of the gospels. In fact, it's so useful that the only reason C14 has such a long half-life compared to its cousins can only be because --- God did it.
That's right...you heard me. God gave us this remarkable handle on the past to show his awesomeness. If you don't believe me, check out this site where creationists like to play with science toys. Specifically, you'll have to listen to the Search For A Solar Twin podcast (here or at Itunes). In essence, they say that the reason God provided us this tool is because
...our Christian faith is rooted in history. As the bible itself says, if the resurrection didn't occur, our faith would be based on nothing and we wouldn't have any reason to believe it. And there's many other things in scripture that are rooted in history. If we don't have a conviction and evidence to support the historicity of the Christian faith then our faith is being eroded. And I think God has provided a handy tool for us to be able to test some of the things that are spoken of in scripture and date them and show that there is an authority and a correctness in scripture as it describes the history that it does.Of course, radiocarbon dating can be a little irritating when it shows that life was around far beyond...oh, let's say 6,000 YEARS AGO! To solve that problem, you have to resort to some other wacky woo. Before long, the Woo piles so high that you either disregard all of it and learn some science, or succumb to Goddiditism.