An old ax handle is found to have one-half as much carbon-14 as a sample of bark taken from a young tree. How old is the ax handle?

1 Answer
Dec 23, 2017


Approximately #5700# years.


Assuming that one-half as much means in proportion to the quantity of carbon-12, then the ax handle is approximately #5730# years old - one half life of carbon-14.

That's the theory, but in practice industrialisation in has resulted in a higher proportion of carbon-12 released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and therefore a lower proportion of carbon-14 in the sample of bark from the young tree, so some corrections may need to be made.