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The technique involves comparing the level of one kind of carbon atom—one that decays over time—with the level of another, more stable kind of carbon atom.The approach was a sensation when it was introduced.The chemist who developed carbon dating, Willard Libby, won the Nobel Prize for his work.“Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking in so many fields of human endeavour,” one of Libby's colleagues wrote at the time, according to the Nobel Foundation.
Today, carbon dating is used so widely as to be taken for granted.
Scientists across countless disciplines rely on it to date objects that are tens of thousands of years old. An analysis by Heather Graven, a climate-physics researcher at Imperial College London, finds that today's rate of fossil-fuel emissions is skewing the ratio of carbon that scientists use to determine an object's age.
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