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(a) The decay constant shows that 0.0568 percent of the nuclei in a carbon-11 sample will decay each second.Another way of considering the decay constant is that a given carbon-11 nuclei has a 0.0568 percent probability of decaying each second.

Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.

Even if it happens to survive hundreds of half-lives, it still has a 50 percent chance of surviving through one more.

Therefore, the decay of a nucleus is like random coin flipping.

Half of what remains decays in the next half-life, and half of that in the next, and so on.

This is exponential decay, as seen in the graph of the number of nuclei present as a function of time. Radioactive carbon has the same chemistry as stable carbon, and so it mixes into the biosphere, where it is consumed and becomes part of every living organism.

The carbon-14 method was developed by the American physicist Willard F. It has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from 500 to 50,000 years old.

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