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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.
During the lifetime of an organism, the amount of c14 in the tissues remains at an equilibrium since the loss (through radioactive decay) is balanced by the gain (through uptake via photosynthesis or consumption of organically fixed carbon).
Targets tuned to different atomic weights count the number of c12, c13, and c 14 atoms in a sample.AMS technology has allowed us to date very small samples (such as seeds) that were previously undatable.Since there are practical limits to the age range of the method, most samples must be younger than 50,000 years and older than 100 years. Since carbon is fundamental to life, occurring along with hydrogen in all organic compounds, the detection of such an isotope might form the basis for a method to establish the age of ancient materials. Libby, a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago, predicted that a radioactive isotope of carbon, known as carbon-14, would be found to occur in nature.
For example, it was once standard practice to simply burn whole bones, but the results were eventually seen to be unreliable.