Carbon dating journals
The forensic use of carbon-14 measurement does not rely on the slow decay process.
Instead, tissue carbon-14 levels are directly compared to levels in a rapidly changing atmosphere.
The clock was initially calibrated by dating objects of known age such as Egyptian mummies and bread from Pompeii; work that won Willard Libby the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
But even he “realized that there probably would be variation”, says Christopher Bronk Ramsey, a geochronologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the latest work, published today in Science.
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Since the 1960s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.
However, if the three laboratories, who accepted the task of dating the shroud, obtain the same age for the shroud and the three control samples within a standard deviation or two completely independently, most knowledgeable scientists will probably accept the results.
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Objects younger than 500 years old are rarely radiocarbon dated.
Natural and anthropogenic fluctuations in environmental radiocarbon levels mean that organisms living in different centuries within the past 500 years can have identical radiocarbon contents.