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But now a sophisticated forensic scientific technique has been used for the first time in a court case of a woman accused of illegally offering carved ivory items for sale on e Bay.
Following a tip-off from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Hampshire Police raided the home of a woman from Aldershot in April 2007 and found 34 items.
They have masses of 13 and 14 respectively and are referred to as "carbon-13" and "carbon-14." If two atoms have equal numbers of protons but differing numbers of neutrons, one is said to be an "isotope" of the other.
Carbon-13 and carbon-14 are thus isotopes of carbon-12.
Ninety-nine percent of these also contain six neutrons.
Above is a graph that illustrates the relationship between how much Carbon 14 is left in a sample and how old it is.
In the last video, we talked about the idea that if I dug up a bone someplace, if I dug up a bone, and if I were to measure its carbon-14, and I found that it had half of the carbon-14 that I would expect to find in a living animal or plant, that I said, hey, maybe one half life has gone by, or roughly for carbon-14, one half life is 5,730 years.
So I said maybe it's 5,730 years since this bone was part of a living animal, or it's roughly that old.
Carbon has two stable, nonradioactive isotopes: carbon-12 (12C) and carbon-13 (13C).
There are also trace amounts of the unstable radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) on Earth.