But that assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock.
The clock was initially calibrated by dating objects of known age such as Egyptian mummies and bread from Pompeii; work that won Willard Libby the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Since the 1960s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.
The world can emit even less greenhouse gases than previously estimated in order to limit climate change to less than 2°C, a new study shows.
Did you ever wonder how scientists know a fossil is 10,000 years old or a piece of paper is 2,000 years old? In this lesson you'll learn about carbon dating and how it works.
Imagine going for a hike in the mountains and finding a 5,000-year-old body frozen in a block of ice!
Carbon dating is used to work out the age of organic material — in effect, any living thing.
The technique hinges on carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of the element that, unlike other more stable forms of carbon, decays away at a steady rate.