But in a dead organism, no new carbon is coming in, and its carbon 14 gradually begins to decay.
Virtually all researchers agree that the test should be performed; sufficiently small samples can now be measured so that the appearance of the relic is not altered.
Several C-14 dating proposals are now under consideration by the Archbishop of Turin.
In contrast to these positive developments, however, there appears to be an unhealthy consensus approaching the level of dogma among both scientific and lay commentators, that C-14 dating will "settle the issue once and for all time."This attitude sharply contradicts the general perspective of field archaeologists and geologists, who view possible contamination as a very serious problem in interpreting the results of radiocarbon measurement.
They believe that neutron radiation caused by an earthquake could have induced the image of a crucified man -- which many people believe to be that of Jesus -- onto the length of linen cloth, and caused Paul Carlsson, a paleometagenomicist working to establish his own career after an abusive childhood at the hands of his scientist father, has never known a world that wasn't 5,800 years old--a figure that, according to his father, had been proven by the Shroud of Turin, the magic bullet and the Kennedy assassination, Romanov bones and DNA matches, Hitler's skull, tracking the killer virus of 1918, testing the Titanic rivets, and identifying Osama bin Laden.
A form of radiometric dating used to determine the age of organic remains in ancient objects, such as archaeological specimens, on the basis of the half-life of carbon-14 and a comparison between the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in a sample of the remains to the known ratio in living organisms. A technique for measuring the age of organic remains based on the rate of decay of carbon 14.
The carbon 14 present in an organism at the time of its death decays at a steady rate, and so the age of the remains can be calculated from the amount of carbon 14 that is left. The cells of all living things contain carbon atoms that they take in from their environment.
Back in the 1940s, the American chemist Willard Libby used this fact to determine the ages of organisms long dead.
Most carbon atoms have six protons and six neutrons in their nuclei and are called carbon 12. But a tiny percentage of carbon is made of carbon 14, or radiocarbon, which has six protons and eight neutrons and is not stable: half of any sample of it decays into other atoms after 5,700 years.
Carbon 14 is continually being created in the Earth's atmosphere by the interaction of nitrogen and gamma rays from outer space.