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Radiocarbon dating is wrong

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The technique hinges on carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of the element that, unlike other more stable forms of carbon, decays away at a steady rate.Organisms capture a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere when they are alive.The clock was initially calibrated by dating objects of known age such as Egyptian mummies and bread from Pompeii; work that won Willard Libby the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.But even he “realized that there probably would be variation”, says Christopher Bronk Ramsey, a geochronologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the latest work, published today in Science.By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.

Y., reported today in the British journal Nature that some estimates of age based on carbon analyses were wrong by as much as 3,500 years.

Since 1947, scientists have reckoned the ages of many old objects by measuring the amounts of radioactive carbon they contain.

New research shows, however, that some estimates based on carbon may have erred by thousands of years.

Example: wood found in a grave of known age by historically reliable documents is the standard for that time for the C14 content.

This standard content of C14 can then be used for wood not associated with a historically documented date.