Atomic mass is a combination of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus.
Further complications arise when the carbon in a sample has not taken a straightforward route from the atmosphere to the organism and thence to the measured sample.
Scientists use a technique called radiometric dating to estimate the ages of rocks, fossils, and the earth.
Obviously there will usually be a loss of stable carbon too but the proportion of radiocarbon to stable carbon will reduce according to the exponential decay law: R = A exp(-T/8033) where R is C ratio of the living organism and T is the amount of time that has passed since the death of the organism.
By measuring the ratio, R, in a sample we can then calculate the age of the sample: T = -8033 ln(R/A) Both of these complications are dealt with by calibration of the radiocarbon dates against material of known age.
The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom determines the element.
For example, all carbon atoms have 6 protons, all atoms of nitrogen have 7 protons, and all oxygen atoms have 8 protons.
For radiocarbon dating to be possible, the material must once have been part of a living organism.
This means that things like stone, metal and pottery cannot usually be directly dated by this means unless there is some organic material embedded or left as a residue.
If this claim is true, the biblical account of a young earth (about 6,000 years) is in question, since C dates of tens of thousands of years are common.1 When a scientist’s interpretation of data does not match the clear meaning of the text in the Bible, we should never reinterpret the Bible.