Radiocarbon dating 101
No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.
The principal modern standard used by radiocarbon dating labs was the Oxalic Acid I obtained from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. Around 95% of the radiocarbon activity of Oxalic Acid I is equal to the measured radiocarbon activity of the absolute radiocarbon standard—a wood in 1890 unaffected by fossil fuel effects.This scintillator produces a flash of light when it interacts with a beta particle.A vial with a sample is passed between two photomultipliers, and only when both devices register the flash of light that a count is made.By knowing how much carbon 14 is left in a sample, the age of the organism when it died can be known.It must be noted though that radiocarbon dating results indicate when the organism was alive but not when a material from that organism was used.
Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and even biomedicine.