How acurate is carbon dating
Carbon 14 is thought to be mainly a product of bombardment of the atmosphere by cosmic rays, so cosmic ray intensity would affect the amount of carbon 14 in the environment at any given time.
#30,000-Year Limit The Lamont-Doherty group says uranium-thorium dating not only is more precise than carbon dating in some cases, but also can be used to date much older objects.
It is too soon to know whether the discovery will seriously upset the estimated dates of events like the arrival of human beings in the Western Hemisphere, scientists said.
But it is already clear that the carbon method of dating will have to be recalibrated and corrected in some cases.
Uranium 234, a radioactive element present in the environment, slowly decays to form thorium 230.
Using a mass spectrometer, an instrument that accelerates streams of atoms and uses magnets to sort them out according to mass and electric charge, the group has learned to measure the ratio of uranium to thorium very precisely.
'' The largest deviation, 3,500 years, was obtained for samples that are about 20,000 years old.'' One reason the group believes the uranium-thorium estimates to be more accurate than carbon dating is that they produce better matches between known changes in the Earth's orbit and changes in global glaciation. Fairbanks, a member of the Lamont-Doherty group, said that if the dates of glaciation were determined using the uranium-thorium method, the delay - and the puzzle - disappeared.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.Because it is radioactive, carbon 14 steadily decays into other substances.But the tree ring record goes no further, so scientists have sought other indicators of age against which carbon dates can be compared.
One such indicator is the uranium-thorium dating method used by the Lamont-Doherty group.
Radiocarbon dating is a key tool archaeologists use to determine the age of plants and objects made with organic material.