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Apparently carbon dating is right up there with evolution in terms of the disdain it evokes from certain religious groups.
What did surprise me was the huge number of Web sites and books vigorously attacking the legitimacy of what I had thought was a fairly straightforward, uncontroversial test.
And in any given sample, one must be certain that contaminants from other time periods are not present—a sometimes-tricky issue.
As a matter of fact, increased hydrocarbon emissions over the past century have greatly increased the amount of carbon-12 in the atmosphere, while nuclear detonations during the past 50 years or so have increased the amount of carbon-14.
So some of the residual carbon in plants is carbon-14.
Animals, in turn, eat the plants (or eat other animals that have eaten the plants), and thus the carbon-14 atoms propagate throughout the food chain.