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Thus, if you are a scientist, based on the extensive work calibrating radiocarbon dating, the process largely amounts to determining what kind of sample you have and measuring the carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio.Then you look through the calibration table for that measurement and read off the proper age.Two excellent examples include tree rings and lake varves.Because of variations in the rate of growth (usually caused by seasons), tree rings provide an excellent way to generate a “fully-anchored” chronology of growth that extends as far back as 12,000 years.For example, in the The decay constant has dimensions of reciprocal seconds.

Coupling the tree-ring data with analysis of organic material buried in yearly sedimentary layers laid down in Lake Suigetsu in Japan extend this chronology and calibration back to 50,000 years.In the presentation speech for the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one scientist described the work by honoree Willard Libby with these words: “Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking of so many fields of human endeavour.Seldom has a single discovery generated such wide public interest.” Libby’s research demonstrated the usefulness of carbon-14 in dating samples thousands of years old.The same applies to marine organisms, although with some well-understood subtleties.After the organism dies, the carbon-14 decays in a predictable way.

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