By contrast, radiocarbon dating supplied the primary objective courting method—the ability to connect approximate numerical dates to organic remains. Libby’s next task was to check the movement of carbon through the carbon cycle. In a system the place carbon-14 is readily exchanged all through the cycle, the ratio of carbon-14 to different carbon isotopes must be the same in a residing organism as within the atmosphere. However, the rates of movement of carbon all through the cycle were not then known. Libby and graduate scholar Ernest Anderson (1920–2013) calculated the mixing of carbon throughout these totally different reservoirs, particularly in the oceans, which constitute the biggest reservoir. Their outcomes predicted the distribution of carbon-14 across options of the carbon cycle and gave Libby encouragement that radiocarbon relationship would achieve success.

It was right here that he developed his theory and methodology of radiocarbon dating, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960. For example, every particular person is hit by about half a million cosmic rays every hour. It isn’t unusual for a cosmic ray to collide with an atom within the ambiance, creating a secondary cosmic ray in the form of an energetic neutron, and for these energetic neutrons to collide with nitrogen atoms. When the neutron collides, a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons). To test the technique, Libby’s group applied the anti-coincidence counter Go to these to samples whose ages had been already identified.