Carbon dating method
However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.
By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, it's possible to work out how old it is.
It is often used on valuable artwork to confirm authenticity.
For example, look at this image of the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb near Luxor, Egypt during the 1920s.
Once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 reduces by the fixed half-life - or the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay - of 5,730 years, and can be measured by scientists for up to 10 half-lives.
Measuring the amount of radioactive carbon-14 remaining makes it possible to work out how old the artifact is, whether it's a fossilized skeleton or a magnificent piece of artwork.
Free 5-day trial Ever wondered how scientists know the age of old bones in an ancient site or how old a scrap of linen is?
The technique used is called carbon dating, and in this lesson we will learn what this is and how it is used. Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, is a method used to date materials that once exchanged carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. In the late 1940s, an American physical chemist named Willard Libby first developed a method to measure radioactivity of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope.
By knowing how much carbon-14 is left in a sample, the age of the organism and when it died can be worked out.
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The half-life is the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay.
For example, if you start off with 1000 radioactive nuclei with a half-life of 10 days, you would have 500 left after 10 days; you would have 250 left after 20 days (2 half-lives); and so on.