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 in the atmosphere contains a constant amount of carbon-14, and as long as an organism is living, the amount of carbon-14 inside it is the same as the atmosphere.However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.The idea behind radiocarbon dating is straightforward, but years of work were required to develop the technique to the point where accurate dates could be obtained.Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years.
The half-life is the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay.
A substantial hurdle is the difficulty of working out fossil ages.
There are several different methods for estimating the ages of fossils, including: Paleontologists rely on stratigraphy to date fossils.
Libby received the Nobel Prize for his work in 1960.
The radiocarbon dating method is based on the fact that radiocarbon is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.