In 1946, Willard Libby proposed an innovative method for dating organic materials by measuring their content of carbon-14, a newly discovered radioactive isotope of carbon.
Known as radiocarbon dating, this method provides objective age estimates for carbon-based objects that originated from living organisms.
At least to the uninitiated, carbon dating is generally assumed to be a sure-fire way to predict the age of any organism that once lived on our planet.
Taken alone, however, the carbon dating is unreliable at best, and at worst, downright inaccurate. Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours.
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The “radiocarbon revolution” made possible by Libby’s discovery greatly benefitted the fields of archaeology and geology by allowing practitioners to develop more precise historical chronologies across geography and cultures.
Willard Libby (1908–1980), a professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, began the research that led him to radiocarbon dating in 1945.
Specifically, there are two types of carbon found in organic materials: carbon 12 (C-12) and carbon 14 (C-14).
It is imperative to remember that the material must have been alive at one point to absorb the carbon, meaning that carbon dating of rocks or other inorganic objects is nothing more than inaccurate guesswork.
However, a little more knowledge about the exact ins and outs of carbon dating reveals that perhaps it is not quite as fool-proof a process as we may have been led to believe.
At its most basic level, carbon dating is the method of determining the age of organic material by measuring the levels of carbon found in it.
In 1946, Libby proposed this groundbreaking idea in the journal Physical Review.
Top of page You read statements in books that such and such a society or archeological site is 20,000 years old.
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