How carbon dating works chemically
For the record, a beta-particle is a specific type of nuclear decay. Image 1 shows carbon-14 production by high energy neutrons hitting nitrogen-14 atoms, while in Image 2, carbon-14 naturally decomposes through beta-particle production.Notice that the nitrogen-14 atom is recreated and goes back into the cycle.
Examples of use include analyzing charcoal from prehistoric caves, ancient linen and wood, and mummified remains.
Scientists often use the value of 10 half-lives to indicate when a radioactive isotope will be gone, or rather, when a very negligible amount is still left.
This is why radiocarbon dating is only useful for dating objects up to around 50,000 years old (about 10 half-lives).
However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.
By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, it's possible to work out how old it is.