Radiometric dating--the process of determining the age of rocks from the decay of their radioactive elements--has been in widespread use for over half a century.
There are over forty such techniques, each using a different radioactive element or a different way of measuring them.
Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years.
The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of radiocarbon in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.
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.
The idea behind radiocarbon dating is straightforward, but years of work were required to develop the technique to the point where accurate dates could be obtained.
For example, based on the primate fossil record, scientists know that living primates evolved from fossil primates and that this evolutionary history took tens of millions of years.
By comparing fossils of different primate species, scientists can examine how features changed and how primates evolved through time.
As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.
He was employed at Caltech's Division of Geological & Planetary Sciences at the time of writing the first edition.
He is presently employed in the Space & Atmospheric Sciences Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).
Additional complications come from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and from the above-ground nuclear tests done in the 1950s and 1960s.