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This discovery meant that there are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon: Whereas carbon-12 and carbon-13 are stable isotopes, carbon-14 is unstable or radioactive.
Since the 1960s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.Hereafter these isotopes will be referred to as 12C, 13C, and 14C.14C is radioactive and has a half-life of 5730 years.The half-life is the time taken for an amount of a radioactive isotope to decay to half its original value.
Because this decay is constant it can be used as a “clock” to measure elapsed time assuming the starting amount is known.
By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.