The amount of carbon-14 decreases relative to the amount of normal carbon.
Radiocarbon dating seizes on that fraction, which decreases over time, to estimate age. The problem is that the fraction can decrease not only as carbon-14 decays but also as normal carbon increases.
The development of this page will be gradual and contributions are invited.
There are many, many interesting applications of radiocarbon dating in a variety of different fields.
By 2100, a dead plant could be almost identical to the Dead Sea scrolls, which are more than 2,000 years old.
These well-known “aging” properties of atmospheric carbon were pinpointed for different emissions scenarios in a paper published in the yesterday.
Scientists across countless disciplines rely on it to date objects that are tens of thousands of years old. An analysis by Heather Graven, a climate-physics researcher at Imperial College London, finds that today's rate of fossil-fuel emissions is skewing the ratio of carbon that scientists use to determine an object's age.
Combustion of fossil fuels is “diluting the fraction of atmospheric carbon dioxide containing radiocarbon,” Graven told , the large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make new organic material appear to be 1,000 years old based on today’s carbon-dating models.
By the year 2100, the atmosphere will have a radiocarbon age of 2,000 years old. If Graven's calculations are correct, carbon dating as we know it today will no longer be reliable by the year 2030.
Which means scientists won’t be able to use carbon dating to distinguish between new materials and artifacts that are hundreds or thousands of years old.
A T-shirt made in 2050 could look exactly like one worn by William the Conqueror a thousand years earlier to someone using radiocarbon dating if emissions continue under a business-as-usual scenario.
It describes how fossil fuel emissions will make radiocarbon dating, used to identify archaeological finds, poached ivory or even human corpses, less reliable.