Isotopes participate in the same chemical reactions but often at differing rates.
When isotopes are to be designated specifically, the chemical symbol is expanded to identify the mass (for example, C is not stable.
The technique of comparing the abundance ratio of a radioactive isotope to a reference isotope to determine the age of a material is called radioactive dating.
Many isotopes have been studied, probing a wide range of time scales.
The unstable Carbon-14 within the organism begins to decay to form Nitrogen-14 by emitting a beta particle.
Over time there is a gradual decrease in the amount of Carbon-14 and the ratio of Carbon-14 atoms to other Carbon atoms declines. Therefore half of the Carbon-14 has decayed after 5730 years.
However, rocks and other objects in nature do not give off such obvious clues about how long they have been around.
Using the decays of uranium and thorium, our galaxy has been found to be between 10 and 20 billion years old and the earth has been found to be 4.6 billion years old. Within experimental error, this estimate agrees with the 15 billion year estimate of the age of the Universe.
The man's body was recovered and pieces of tissue were studied for their C content by accelerator mass spectroscopy.
The best estimate from this dating technique says the man lived between 33 BC. From the ratio, the time since the formation of the rock can be calculated.
C and counting the amount of each) allows one to date the death of the once-living things.
Perhaps you have heard of Ice Man, a man living in the Alps who died and was entombed in glacial ice until recently when the ice moved and melted.