Carbon dating limit

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Any organic material that is available in sufficient quantity can be prepared for radiocarbon dating.

Modern AMS (accelerator mass spectroscopy) methods require tiny amounts, about 50 mg.

Bases may be used to remove contaminating humic acids.

However, when the organism dies, the amount of c14 declines such that the longer the time since death the lower the levels of c14 in organic tissue.

Libby calculated the half-life of c14 as 5568 ± 30 years.

This means that half of the c14 has decayed by the time an organism has been dead for 5568 years, and half of the remainder has decayed by 11,136 years after death, etc.

The ensuing atomic interactions create a steady supply of c14 that rapidly diffuses throughout the atmosphere.

Plants take up c14 along with other carbon isotopes during photosynthesis in the proportions that occur in the atmosphere; animals acquire c14 by eating the plants (or other animals).

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