How accurate is carbon 14 dating

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Dating Subject to Error But scientists have long recognized that carbon dating is subject to error because of a variety of factors, including contamination by outside sources of carbon.Therefore they have sought ways to calibrate and correct the carbon dating method.Scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Laboratory of Columbia University at Palisades, N.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.According to carbon dating of fossil animals and plants, the spreading and receding of great ice sheets lagged behind orbital changes by several thousand years, a delay that scientists found hard to explain. The group theorizes that large errors in carbon dating result from fluctuations in the amount of carbon 14 in the air.Changes in the Earth's magnetic field would change the deflection of cosmic-ray particles streaming toward the Earth from the Sun.

To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.Carbon dating is unreliable for objects older than about 30,000 years, but uranium-thorium dating may be possible for objects up to half a million years old, Dr. The method is less suitable, however, for land animals and plants than for marine organisms, because uranium is plentiful in sea water but less so in most soils.But even if the method is limited to marine organisms, it will be extremely useful for deciphering the history of Earth's climate, ice, oceans and rocks, Dr. In fact, many important archaeological artifacts have been dated using this method including some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Shroud of Turin.Though radiocarbon dating is startlingly accurate for the most part, it has a few sizable flaws.

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