We learned rather abruptly that these numbers, these ancient ages, are not known accurately; in fact, it is at about the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt that the first historical date of any real certainty has been established.” —Willard Libby, Nobel Lecture, 12 December 1960 The concept of radiocarbon dating focused on measuring the carbon content of discreet organic objects, but in order to prove the idea Libby would have to understand the earth’s carbon system.Radiocarbon dating would be most successful if two important factors were true: that the concentration of carbon-14 in the atmosphere had been constant for thousands of years, and that carbon-14 moved readily through the atmosphere, biosphere, oceans and other reservoirs—in a process known as the carbon cycle.In 1946, Libby proposed this groundbreaking idea in the journal Physical Review.Top of page You read statements in books that such and such a society or archeological site is 20,000 years old.Libby cleverly realized that carbon-14 in the atmosphere would find its way into living matter, which would thus be tagged with the radioactive isotope.Theoretically, if one could detect the amount of carbon-14 in an object, one could establish that object’s age using the half-life, or rate of decay, of the isotope.
Based on Korff’s estimation that just two neutrons were produced per second per square centimeter of earth’s surface, each forming a carbon-14 atom, Libby calculated a ratio of just one carbon-14 atom per every 10 carbon atoms on earth.
“The stakes were higher, you had to be really sure that you liked that person and were willing to take the risk, therefore the reward was much sweeter and the risk, sometimes worth it,” she says.
“Those days are gone now that matches are instantly won, lost and unmatched and a catalogue roster of willing victims await when things don't go precisely the way one might want them to play out.
“You are always thinking that there is someone better on the next swipe,” she says.
“Or after your one ‘okay’ date you might get straight back to Tinder without giving someone date number two.” Elle, a 33-year-old creative from east London, says apps have replaced the days of risk-taking because of unrealistic expectations of perfection.