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Carbon-14 is most abundant in atmospheric carbon dioxide because it is constantly being produced by collisions between nitrogen atoms and cosmic rays at the upper limits of the atmosphere.

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Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years— during the succeeding 5,730 years.

Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.

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The internationally accepted radiocarbon dating reference is 95% of the activity, in 1950 AD, of the NBS oxalic acid normalized to C activity: » 50 pmc Chemical and isotopc evolution in recharge zone: (Fig) (Fig) Open and closed system conditions ‘real world’ systems are somewhere in between open and closed and the correction models mentioned above and described in Clark and Fritz (chapter 8) have to be applied.

Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.

Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.

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Free 5-day trial Radiometric dating is used to estimate the age of rocks and other objects based on the fixed decay rate of radioactive isotopes.

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