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Nuclear tests, nuclear reactors and the use of nuclear weapons have also changed the composition of radioisotopes in the air over the last few decades.
This human nuclear activity will make precise dating of fossils from our lifetime very difficult due to contamination of the normal radioisotope composition of the earth with addition artificially produced radioactive atoms.
This has implications for the other tasks on Carbon 14 dating which will be addressed in ''Accuracy of Carbon 14 Dating II.'' The statistical nature of radioactive decay means that reporting the half-life as 30 \pm 40$ is more informative than providing a number such as 30$ or 00$.
Not only does the $\pm 40$ years provide extra information but it also allows us to assess the reliability of conclusions or predictions based on our calculations. Some more information about Carbon $ dating along with references is available at the following link: Radiocarbon Dating The half-life of Carbon $, that is, the time required for half of the Carbon $ in a sample to decay, is variable: not every Carbon $ specimen has exactly the same half life.
Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50,000 years old.
This technique is widely used on recent artifacts, but educators and students alike should note that this technique will not work on older fossils (like those of the dinosaurs alleged to be millions of years old).
The decay of Carbon $ into stable Nitrogen $ does not take place in a regular, determined fashion: rather it is governed by the laws of probability and statistics formalized in the language of quantum mechanics.
As such, the reported half life of 30 \pm 40$ years means that $ years is the standard deviation for the process and so we expect that roughly $ percent of the time half of the Carbon $ in a given sample will decay within the time span of 30 \pm 40$ years.
The question should be whether or not carbon-14 can be used to date any artifacts at all? There are a few categories of artifacts that can be dated using carbon-14; however, they cannot be more 50,000 years old.As stated previously, carbon dating cannot be used on artifacts over about 50,000 years old.These artifacts have gone through many carbon-14 half-lives, and the amount of carbon-14 remaining in them is miniscule and very difficult to detect.This explains why the Wikipedia article on Carbon $ lists the half-life of Carbon 14 as 30 \pm 40$ years.