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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. Basis of Radiocarbon Dating Problems with Radiocarbon Dating The Earth's Magnetic Field Table 1 Effect of Increasing Earth's Magnetic Field Removal of Carbon From the Biosphere Water Vapour Canopy Effect on Radiocarbon Dating Figure 1 Apparent Radiocarbon Dates Heartwood and Frozen Time Early Post-Flood Trees Appendix Radiocarbon Date Table HOW ACCURATE IS RADIOCARBON DATING? The normal carbon atom has six protons and six neutrons in its nucleus, giving a total atomic mass of 12.Radiocarbon dating is frequently used to date ancient human settlements or tools. It is a stable atom that will not change its atomic mass under normal circumstances.When they strike ordinary atoms in the upper atmosphere, the cosmic rays smash them apart. Some of these neutrons then collide with nitrogen atoms.This collision is less destructive than the initial collision that produced them.
Radiocarbon samples which obtain their carbon from a different source (or reservoir) than atmospheric carbon may yield what is termed apparent ages.
Since the 1940s, scientists have used carbon dating to determine the age of fossils, identify vintages of wine and whiskey, and explore other organic artifacts like wood and ivory.