Correcting for isotopic fractionation, as is done for all radiocarbon dates to allow comparison between results from different parts of the biosphere, gives an apparent age of about 400 years for ocean surface water.thus introduced takes a long time to percolate through the entire volume of the ocean.Libby and James Arnold proceeded to test the radiocarbon dating theory by analyzing samples with known ages.For example, two samples taken from the tombs of two Egyptian kings, Zoser and Sneferu, independently dated to 2625 BC plus or minus 75 years, were dated by radiocarbon measurement to an average of 2800 BC plus or minus 250 years. Carbon dioxide produced in this way diffuses in the atmosphere, is dissolved in the ocean, and is taken up by plants via photosynthesis.

The method was developed in the late 1940s by Willard Libby, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in 1960.

Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).

Additional complications come from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and from the above-ground nuclear tests done in the 1950s and 1960s.

Animals eat the plants, and ultimately the radiocarbon is distributed throughout the biosphere.

The ratio of λ is a constant that depends on the particular isotope; for a given isotope it is equal to the reciprocal of the mean-life – i.e.