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Tucked away in his lab on the University of Arizona campus, archeological scientist Greg Hodgins solves unsolved mysteries: he’s discovered the age of a domesticated dog skull found in a Siberian cave (33,000 years old) and dated millennia-old petroglyphs. But his work isn’t all in the field of geology: he also solved cold cases by identifying bodies of people who’ve been missing for years.

He does all of this by measuring an element called carbon-14. Carbon-14 is in every living thing. Its half-life (the time it takes for its radioactivity to fall by half once something dies), is almost 6,000 years. That’s unusually long – and because the element lingers in our bones and teeth and in tree rings for so long, it’s an excellent tool for measuring age (or more often than not, for measuring how long ago something died).

This story will delve into some of they mysteries Hodgins and his team have solved and look at how nuclear explosions in the 40s and 50s were a boon to his field.

Producer: Vanessa Barchfield
Videographer: Mitchell Riley & Nate Huffman
Editor: Bob Lindberg