Problem: Anthropologists can estimate the age of a bone or other sample of organic matter by its carbon-14 content. The carbon-14 in a living organism is constant until the organism dies, after which carbon-14 decays with first-order kinetics and a half-life of 5730 years. Suppose a bone from an ancient human contains 15.5 % of the C-14 found in living organisms.How old is the bone?

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We are asked to determine the age of a bone sample using carbon dating given that  carbon-14 decays with first-order kinetics and a half-life of 5730 years and that a bone from an ancient human contains 15.5 % of the C-14 found in living organisms.


Recall that half-life is the time needed for the amount of a reactant to decrease by 50% or one-half. The half-life of a first-order reaction is given by:


t12=ln2k


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Problem Details

Anthropologists can estimate the age of a bone or other sample of organic matter by its carbon-14 content. The carbon-14 in a living organism is constant until the organism dies, after which carbon-14 decays with first-order kinetics and a half-life of 5730 years. Suppose a bone from an ancient human contains 15.5 % of the C-14 found in living organisms.

How old is the bone?

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