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dating old books - Carbon dating explanation for kids

Because the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 present in all living organisms is the same, and because the decay rate of carbon 14 is constant, the length of time that has passed since an organism has died can be calculated by comparing the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in its remains to the known ratio in living organisms. Our Living Language : In the late 1940s, American chemist Willard Libby developed a method for determining when the death of an organism had occurred.

He first noted that the cells of all living things contain atoms taken in from the organism's environment, including carbon; all organic compounds contain carbon.

This procedure of radiocarbon dating has been widely adopted and is considered accurate enough for practical use to study remains up to 50,000 years old.

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.

Radioactivity, also known as radioactive decay, is a process by which a radioactive isotope loses subatomic particles (helium nuclei or electrons) from its nucleus along with usual emission of gamma radiation, and becomes a different element.

In a large collection of atoms, there is a definite time, called the half-life of the isotope, after which one-half of the total number of nuclei would have decayed.

Until this century, relative dating was the only technique for identifying the age of a truly ancient object.

By examining the object's relation to layers of deposits in the area, and by comparing the object to others found at the site, archaeologists can estimate when the object arrived at the site.

Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon.

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