Eventually, however, all the carbon-14 atoms will decay—or at least enough of them will that the amount of radiation they emit can no longer be distinguished from ordinary background radiation.
I think it’s fair to say that any educated person over the age of 10 or so has probably heard of carbon dating.
But I realized the other day that even as an adult with a fair amount of scientific knowledge, I could not articulate exactly how or why carbon dating works.
Thus, carbon dating would not be useful in, for example, assessing dinosaur bones. For example, with a few exceptions, the technique can only be applied to once-living items such as bone, leather, wood, and cloth—not, say, rocks or metal.
More importantly, though, the accuracy of carbon dating rests on several crucial assumptions.
And at other points in history, climatic changes and other large-scale global events have altered the picture in other ways.