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By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, it's possible to work out how old it is.
This technique works well for materials up to around 50,000 years old.
Carbon dioxide also permeates the oceans, dissolving in the water.
Plants take in atmospheric carbon dioxide by photosynthesis, and are ingested by animals.
By about ten half-lives, or 58,000 years, the amount of carbon-14 left in the fossil is very little- about 1/1000 of the original number of carbon-14 atoms in the fossil.
So, using carbon dating for fossils older than 60,000 years is unreliable.
Following a conference at the University of Cambridge in 1962, a more accurate figure of 5730 years was agreed upon and this figure is now known as the Cambridge half-life.
However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.
Carbon dating was developed by American scientist Willard Libby and his team at the University of Chicago.
Libby calculated the half-life of carbon-14 as 5568, a figure now known as the Libby half-life.
Carbon-14 is produced in the atmosphere when neutrons from cosmic radiation react with nitrogen atoms: C ratio of 0.795 times that found in plants living today. Solution The half-life of carbon-14 is known to be 5720 years. Radioactive decay is a first order rate process, which means the reaction proceeds according to the following equation: is the quantity of radioactive material at time zero, X is the amount remaining after time t, and k is the first order rate constant, which is a characteristic of the isotope undergoing decay.
One of the most frequent uses of radiocarbon dating is to estimate the age of organic remains from archaeological sites.