Since 1955 the estimate for the age of the Earth has been based on the assumption that certain meteorite lead isotope ratios are equivalent to the primordial lead isotope ratios on Earth.
In 1972 this assumption was shown to be highly questionable.
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Despite this, the momentum gained in the two decades prior to 1972 has made 4.5 b.y.
a popularly accepted “universal constant” even though the foundations on which it was based have been virtually removed.
Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in 1960.
The radiocarbon dating method is based on the fact that radiocarbon is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.
Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).
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The resulting radiocarbon combines with atmospheric oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide, which is incorporated into plants by photosynthesis; animals then acquire in a sample from a dead plant or animal such as a piece of wood or a fragment of bone provides information that can be used to calculate when the animal or plant died.
The older a sample is, the less (the period of time after which half of a given sample will have decayed) is about 5,730 years, the oldest dates that can be reliably measured by this process date to around 50,000 years ago, although special preparation methods occasionally permit accurate analysis of older samples.