How effective is carbon dating

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Their work was detailed in a paper in the latest issue of the journal .

For over 50 years, scientists and researchers have relied on carbon dating to find the exact age of organic matter.

"The radiocarbon dating technique may significantly underestimate the age of sediment for samples older than 30,000 years,” said the authors of the report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics.

This all changed in the 1940s when US chemist Willard Libby discovered that carbon-14, a radioactive isotope, could be used to date organic compounds.But the method had one major flaw: it didn’t account for changes in the proportion of radioactive and non-radioactive carbon in the environment; and if these had changed, the estimate would most likely be wrong.Many events can affect the levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere, such as the burning of fossil fuel or the detonation of an atom bomb.In some cases, the latter ratio appears to be a much more accurate gauge of age than the customary method of carbon dating, the scientists said.In principle, any material of plant or animal origin, including textiles, wood, bones and leather, can be dated by its content of carbon 14, a radioactive form of carbon in the environment that is incorporated by all living things.

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