Testing the Radiocarbon Dating Method
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Arnold and Libby (1949) first tested the radiocarbon dating method using ancient samples of known age: old tree wood dated by dendrochronology (counting annual growth rings), and artifacts dated by experts in ancient architecture and craftsmanship


The graph below contains a table of the ages and the % modern values as measured by Arnold and Libby for these samples as well as estimated "errors" associated with these ages, such as ± 50 years. Use your mouse to drag the symbol for each sample onto the graph and position the symbol so that age and activity values correspond to those of the table. If you need to move a symbol, drag it with your mouse. One of the data points, #1 , is plotted for you. The length of the vertical line associated with each plotted point is proportional to the size of the error in determining the % modern value..


The symbols for your plotted points should overlap with the theoretical C-14 decay curve. Imagine how excited Arnold and Libby were when they first located these points on a similar graph. This experiment helped them understand that the C-14 radiometric age dating technique could now be used to unlock many mysteries of the Earth and its life over the past 50,000 years.

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