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Background radiocarbon activity is measured, and the values obtained are deducted from the sample’s radiocarbon dating results.Background samples analyzed are usually geological in origin of infinite age such as coal, lignite, and limestone.No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.
Plants and animals assimilate carbon 14 from carbon dioxide throughout their lifetimes.
The radiocarbon age of a certain sample of unknown age can be determined by measuring its carbon 14 content and comparing the result to the carbon 14 activity in modern and background samples.
The principal modern standard used by radiocarbon dating labs was the Oxalic Acid I obtained from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. Around 95% of the radiocarbon activity of Oxalic Acid I is equal to the measured radiocarbon activity of the absolute radiocarbon standard—a wood in 1890 unaffected by fossil fuel effects.
This scintillator produces a flash of light when it interacts with a beta particle.
A vial with a sample is passed between two photomultipliers, and only when both devices register the flash of light that a count is made.
American physical chemist Willard Libby led a team of scientists in the post World War II era to develop a method that measures radiocarbon activity.