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Libby received the Nobel Prize for his work in 1960.
The radiocarbon dating method is based on the fact that radiocarbon is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.
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.
Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years.
Measurement of radiocarbon was originally done by beta-counting devices, which counted the amount of beta radiation emitted by decaying atoms in the sample and not just the few that happen to decay during the measurements; it can therefore be used with much smaller samples (as small as individual plant seeds), and gives results much more quickly.
The development of radiocarbon dating has had a profound impact on archaeology.
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Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).In addition to permitting more accurate dating within archaeological sites than previous methods, it allows comparison of dates of events across great distances.
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