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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 measuring the C concentration or residual radioactivity of a sample whose age is not known, it is possible to obtain the number of decay events per gram of Carbon.

By comparing this with modern levels of activity (1890 wood corrected for decay to 1950 AD) and using the measured half-life it becomes possible to calculate a date for the death of the sample. As a result of atomic bomb usage, C ages of objects younger than 1950.

Geological Time | Geologic Time Scale | Plate Tectonics | Radiometric Dating | Deep Time | Geological History of New Zealand | Radiometric Dating Radiometric measurements of time Since the early twentieth century scientists have found ways to accurately measure geological time.

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For instance, Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor, was dated by scientists who studied the volcanic flows and ashes in deposits where her bones were found.)“Given current emissions trends, fossil fuel emission-driven artificial ‘aging’ of the atmosphere is likely to occur much faster and with a larger magnitude than previously expected,” Graven wrote.

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.

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