Carbon from these sources is very low in C-14 because these sources are so old and have not been mixed with fresh carbon from the air.
However, in either case, the background beta radiation has to be compensated for, and, in the older objects, the amount of C-14 they have left is less than the margin of error in measuring background radiation. Question: Creationists such as Cook (1966) claim that cosmic radiation is now forming C-14 in the atmosphere about one and one-third times faster than it is decaying.
As Hurley points out: Without rather special developmental work, it is not generally practicable to measure ages in excess of about twenty thousand years, because the radioactivity of the carbon becomes so slight that it is difficult to get an accurate measurement above background radiation. 108) Cosmic rays form beta radiation all the time; this is the radiation that turns N-14 to C-14 in the first place. If we extrapolate backwards in time with the proper equations, we find that the earlier the historical period, the less C-14 the atmosphere had.
Living organisms are constantly incorporating this C-14 into their bodies along with other carbon isotopes.
When the organisms die, they stop incorporating new C-14, and the old C-14 starts to decay back into N-14 by emitting beta particles.
Since the tree ring counts have reliably dated some specimens of wood all the way back to 6200 BC, one can check out the C-14 dates against the tree-ring-count dates.
Admittedly, this old wood comes from trees that have been dead for hundreds of years, but you don't have to have an 8,200-year-old bristlecone pine tree alive today to validly determine that sort of date.
Of course, species of tree tend to produce two or more growth rings per year.
But other species produce scarcely any extra rings.
In the growth-ring analyses of approximately one thousand trees in the White Mountains, we have, in fact, found no more than three or four occurrences of even incipient multiple growth layers. 840) In years of severe drought, a bristlecone pine may fail to grow a complete ring all the way around its perimeter; we may find the ring if we bore into the tree from one angle, but not from another.
Hence at least some of the missing rings can be found.
The older an organism's remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.