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AMS counts the quantity of C isotope is constantly formed in the upper atmosphere thanks to the effects of cosmic rays on nitrogen-14 atoms.
It is oxidised quickly and absorbed in great quantities by all living organisms - animal and plant, land and ocean dwelling alike.
If a radioactivity level comes back as half of what would have been expected if the organism had died in 1950, then it is presumed to be 5,730 years before 1950.
AMS works slightly differently; it converts the atoms of the sample into fast-moving ions so that they become charged atoms.
By applying magnetic and electrical fields, the mass of these ions is measured and the accelerator is used to remove ions that might contaminate the dating.
Radiocarbon dating may only be used on organic materials.
Typically (6): The above list is not exhaustive; most organic material is suitable so long as it is of sufficient age and has not mineralised - dinosaur bones are out as they no longer have any carbon left.
The next big step in the radiocarbon dating method would be Accelerated Mass Spectrometry which was developed in the late 1980s and published its first results in 1994 (3).