A mathematical explanation of carbon dating and half life

This does not mean that we have a precise year of 3780BC, it means we then need to calibrate through other methods that will show us how atmospheric concentrations of the C isotope has changed - most typically through the dendrochronology records (tree ring data) (10).Very old trees such as North American Bristlecone Pine are ideal for constructing long and accurate records of the state of the atmosphere.AMS works slightly differently; it converts the atoms of the sample into fast-moving ions so that they become charged atoms.By applying magnetic and electrical fields, the mass of these ions is measured and the accelerator is used to remove ions that might contaminate the dating.

The overlapping nature of the tree records means this is the most accurate record we have.

Radiocarbon dating may only be used on organic materials.

Typically (6): The above list is not exhaustive; most organic material is suitable so long as it is of sufficient age and has not mineralised - dinosaur bones are out as they no longer have any carbon left.

The next big step in the radiocarbon dating method would be Accelerated Mass Spectrometry which was developed in the late 1980s and published its first results in 1994 (3).

This was a giant leap forward in that it offered far more accurate dates for a far smaller sample (9); this made destruction of samples a far less delicate issue to researchers, especially on artefacts such as The Shroud of Turin for which accurate dates were now possible without damaging a significant part of the artefact.

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