The development of radiocarbon dating has had a profound impact on archaeology.In addition to permitting more accurate dating within archaeological sites than previous methods, it allows comparison of dates of events across great distances.Libby and James Arnold proceeded to test the radiocarbon dating theory by analyzing samples with known ages.
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.
In 1939, Martin Kamen and Samuel Ruben of the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley began experiments to determine if any of the elements common in organic matter had isotopes with half-lives long enough to be of value in biomedical research.
They synthesized Libby and several collaborators proceeded to experiment with methane collected from sewage works in Baltimore, and after isotopically enriching their samples they were able to demonstrate that they contained radioactive .
Animals eat the plants, and ultimately the radiocarbon is distributed throughout the biosphere.
The ratio of λ is a constant that depends on the particular isotope; for a given isotope it is equal to the reciprocal of the mean-life – i.e.
For consistency with these early papers, and to avoid the risk of a double correction for the incorrect half-life, radiocarbon ages are still calculated using the incorrect half-life value.