Carbon dating has given archeologists a more accurate method by which they can determine the age of ancient artifacts.
Libby invented carbon dating for which he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1960.
The halflife of carbon 14 is 5730 ± 30 years, and the method of dating lies in trying to determine how much carbon 14 (the radioactive isotope of carbon) is present in the artifact and comparing it to levels currently present in the atmosphere.
Above is a graph that illustrates the relationship between how much Carbon 14 is left in a sample and how old it is.
To understand this process we must first understand a little bit about the atoms themselves and how they get their names.
Most carbon atoms have six positively charged protons and six uncharged neutrons.
Since protons and neutrons weigh about the same, the atomic mass of ordinary carbon is 6 6 = 12.
It is called "Carbon-12," which is abbreviated "C." The fact that the atom has six protons is what makes it carbon.
The fact that it has seven protons is what makes it nitrogen.Other atoms are also named based on the number of protons they carry.Notice in the diagram that eight different isotopes of Carbon are illustrated.Three of the Carbon isotopes (C) are found in nature.The rest of the carbon isotopes are only of laboratory interest.To the left side of each C (C is the symbol for Carbon) are two numbers, the bottom number indicates the Atomic Number or the number of protons in the nucleus.Since all the atoms are carbon, they should all have an Atomic Number of 6.The top number is the Mass Number for each isotope.The Mass Number for any isotope is the addition of all the protons and neutrons in the nucleus.Looking at the first isotope in the chart, Carbon 9 has 9 (protons neutrons).Remember that the Atomic Number (the bottom number) indicates the number of protons.