Libby carbon dating
Radioactive carbon thus was visualized as gaining entrance wherever atmospheric carbon dioxide enters—into land plants by photosynthesis, into animals that feed on the plants, into marine and fresh waters as a dissolved component, and from there into aquatic plants and animals.In short, all parts of the carbon cycle were seen to be invaded by the isotope carbon-14.
In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.
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The occurrence of natural radioactive carbon in the atmosphere provides a unique opportunity to date organic materials as old as roughly 60,000 years.
His success initiated a series of measurements designed to answer two questions: Is the concentration of carbon-14 uniform throughout the plant and animal kingdoms?
And, if so, has today’s uniform level prevailed throughout the recent past?
A 2 to 3 percent depression of the atmospheric radioactive-carbon level since 1900 was noted soon after Libby’s pioneering work, almost certainly the result of the dumping of huge volumes of carbon-14-free carbon dioxide into the air through smokestacks.