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But carbon-14 is extremely rare, and to use it for identifying fossil fuels, scientists need to be able to measure it at concentrations as low as 1 part in 10 trillion.That's the equivalent of a single grain of sand in 60 dump trucks full of the stuff.And so this will give us pretty good estimates over tens of thousands of years, up to 50,000 years.And frankly, carbon-14 isn't even useful beyond, really, 50,000 or 60,000 years.So it's a record of the fraction of carbon-14 in some of those years.

But anyway, hopefully that rests some of your worries about the assumption that I made in the last video about carbon-14 being relatively constant.

Unlike regular carbon, carbon-14 is unstable, with a half-life of 5,730 years.

When living things die, they stop incorporating carbon into their bodies, and their carbon-14 starts to decay away.

So this gives us a good record of carbon-14 in the atmosphere, assuming that it's fairly uniform throughout the atmosphere, and all evidence suggests that, and that that uniformity through the atmosphere also goes into the water supply, and into living plants and animals.

Now, the other thing, and I looked into this a little bit, it actually turns out because we are spewing so much fossil fuel right now, we are changing the amount, or the proportion of carbon-14 much, much faster than has happened in other time periods.

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To measure concentrations that low, you need an extremely sensitive measurement technique, and such a technique already exists.

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