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which meant that many calculated dates in papers published prior to this were incorrect (the error in the half-life is about 3%).For consistency with these early papers, it was agreed at the 1962 Radiocarbon Conference in Cambridge (UK) to use the “Libby half-life” of 5568 years.The half-life of (the time it takes for half of a given amount of to decay) is about 5,730 years, so its concentration in the atmosphere might be expected to reduce over thousands of years, but is constantly being produced in the lower During its life, a plant or animal is in equilibrium with its surroundings by exchanging carbon either with the atmosphere, or through its diet.

collected from sewage works in Baltimore, and after isotopically enriching their samples they were able to demonstrate that they contained . When the animal or plant dies, it stops exchanging carbon with its environment, and from that point onwards the amount of it contains begins to decrease as the undergoes radioactive decay.Measuring the amount of in a sample from a dead plant or animal such as a piece of wood or a fragment of bone provides information that can be used to calculate when the animal or plant died.The different elements of the carbon exchange reservoir vary in how much carbon they store, and in how long it takes for the generated by cosmic rays to fully mix with them.This affects the ratio of to in the different reservoirs, and hence the radiocarbon ages of samples that originated in each reservoir.

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