Carbon-14 Dating

 Carbon-14 Dating  

Contrary to the title, this challenge has nothing to do with dating or going out on a date. Perhaps you have already, or soon will, encounter that challenge sometime in the future.

This challenge concerns a radioactive (unstable) form of the element carbon. Normal carbon is known as Carbon-12, where one atom of C-12 is made up of 6 protons and 6 neutrons. The unstable form, C-14, is made up of 6 protons and 8 neutrons. And it is absorbed by all living things while they are alive here on the earth.



C-14 begins to break down after the death of the organism at a constant rate. This rate is known as the half-life of an element.

C-14 has a half life of 5730 years, which means it loses half of its radioactivity every 5730 years that pass after the organism has died. When the organism no longer lives, it ceases to absorb any new C-14. In theory, it will never lose ALL of its radioactivity though, and very small amounts will still be present in enough quantity to measure.

The challenge: Freddie Fender of Frankfort found between Fargo and Frostbite Falls a bone buried at the corner of First Street and Felipe Avenue on a frosty February morning. He took the bone to the Frostbite Falls Forever Forensic Department, which is fenced in by a four hundred forty four foot fence. The lab there used C-14 dating and discovered that only 1.5625% of the original C-14 remained in the bone. Approximately, how long ago did the animal live, based on the data taken from the bone?

Bonus:  Which two animal inhabitants made Frostbite Falls famous?