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Carbon-14 dating can be used on objects ranging from a few hundred years old to 50,000 years old. Libby and others (University of Chicago) devised a method of estimating the age of organic material based on the decay rate of the quantity of radioactive material at time zero, X is the amount remaining after time t, and k is the first order rate constant, which is a characteristic of the isotope undergoing decay. From this science, we are able to approximate the date at which the organism were living on Earth.Carbon-14 is constantly be generated in the atmosphere and cycled through the carbon and nitrogen cycles.Once an organism is decoupled from these cycles (i.e., death), then the carbon-14 decays until essentially gone.The half-life of a radioactive isotope (usually denoted by \(t_\)) is a more familiar concept than \(k\) for radioactivity, so although Equation \(\ref\) is expressed in terms of \(k\), it is more usual to quote the value of \(t_\).

Emilio Segrè asserted in his autobiography that Enrico Fermi suggested the concept to Libby at a seminar in Chicago that year.

This process begins when an organism is no longer able to exchange Carbon with their environment.

Carbon-14 is first formed when cosmic rays in the atmosphere allow for excess neutrons to be produced, which then react with Nitrogen to produce a constantly replenishing supply of carbon-14 to exchange with organisms.

This material roughly covers a first-year high school or college course, and a good understanding of algebra is helpful.

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