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Tree rings can be counted and their radiocarbon content measured.

From these records a “calibration curve” can be built (see figure 2, below).

A huge amount of work is currently underway to extend and improve the calibration curve.

In 2008 we could only calibrate radiocarbon dates until 26,000 years.

Limitations on the use of optical dating of single-grain/very small aliquots include the relative paucity of sand-sized quartz, which decreases the precision of the sample equivalent dose (), and is further confounded by low environmental dose rates and resultant large uncertainties on the final age assessment.

Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

While the lighter isotopes C has decayed that what remains can no longer be measured. In 5,730 years half of the C in the atmosphere, and therefore in plants and animals, has not always been constant.

Moving away from techniques, the most exciting thing about radiocarbon is what it reveals about our past and the world we live in.Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members.C) chronologies from ostracod carbonate, mixed carbonates, sedimentary organic matter and charcoal in order to establish the age of laminated Holocene sediments in maar crater lakes Keilambete and Gnotuk, Victoria, Australia.Samples for optical and AMS C samples were taken from water in Lake Keilambete and from groundwater discharging into Lake Keilambete from the crater wall, with equivalent reservoir ages of 150 ± ± 30 years respectively.

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