Radiometric dating simplified

The potassium-argon dating method has been used to measure a wide variety of ages.

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method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium-40 to radioactive argon-40 in minerals and rocks; potassium-40 also decays to calcium-40.

Thus, the ratio of argon-40 and potassium-40 and radiogenic calcium-40 to potassium-40 in a mineral or rock is a measure of the age of the sample.

The New Zealand curve is representative for the Southern Hemisphere, the Austrian curve is representative for the Northern Hemisphere. This makes it possible to tell the age of substances that contain carbon. Dates obtained are usually written as before present ('present' is 1950).

Atmospheric nuclear weapon tests almost doubled the concentration of Radiocarbon dating, also known as the C14 dating method, is a way of telling how old an object is. Plants take up atmospheric carbon dioxide by photosynthesis, and are eaten by animals, so every living thing is constantly exchanging carbon-14 with its environment as long as it lives. In 1958 Hessel de Vries showed that the concentration of carbon-14 in the atmosphere varies with time and locality.

The method was developed by Willard Libby in the late 1940s and soon became a standard tool for archaeologists.

Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in 1960.

Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years.

The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of radiocarbon in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.

In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.

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