Seldom has a single discovery generated such wide public interest.” Carbon dating was initially used by archeologists to date discoveries and add (or confirm) necessary context for a find.
One of the second groups to use radiocarbon dating was that of climate scientists, who were interested in the facts about human evolution and how it was shaped by climate change.
DR CHRISTINE PRIOR In conventional radiocarbon dating, you’re measuring the presence of the C-14 when you measure the radioactive decay.
The C-14 decays with the beta particle, and you have some detection equipment and you count the C-14s one by one.
For his work, Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960.
The colleague who nominated him noted: “Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking of so many fields of human endeavour.
Radiocarbon dating has significantly changed humans’ approach to history during the last 50 years.
Three types of carbon occur naturally in living material: C12, C13 and C14.
Climatologists want to understand the correct timing of past warming, thawing and freezing cycles so that they can understand the likelihood of future cycles.
Anthropologists and archeologists want to have factual dates so that they can understand the spread of cultures across the world.
Despite the information provided through radiocarbon dating, the process does have its limitations.
Samples must be large enough to allow for purification, and they need to be carefully removed and packaged to prevent any chance of contamination.
A mass spectrometer is an instrument that uses a series of magnets to bend a beam of ions and then physically count how many there are, so with AMS radiocarbon dating, we can measure a carbon-12, 13 and 14 beam, and we measure the ratio of 14 to 13, and from that, we can tell how much C-14 is in the sample.