Fossil fuel emissions could soon make it impossible for radiocarbon dating to distinguish new materials from artefacts that are hundreds of years old.
Carbon released by burning fossil fuels is diluting radioactive carbon-14 and artificially raising the radiocarbon 'age' of the atmosphere, according to a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Radiocarbon measurements have a range of uses, from analysing archaeological finds, to detecting fraudulent works of art, to identifying illegal ivory trading, to assessing the regeneration of brain cells in neurological patients.
The new study suggests that some of these current uses will be affected over this century, depending on how much fossil fuel emissions increase or decrease."If we reduced fossil fuel emissions, it would be good news for radiocarbon dating," said the study's author, Dr Heather Graven from the Department of Physics and the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London.
Fossils are found all over the world and on every continent.
A paleontologist is a scientist that studies fossils.
However, the abstract of the Miller presentation was removed from the website for the conference. Double-click on the box for Wednesday, Room Leo 2, BG02.
You will see presentation 5 is missing between 4 and 6.
When their emissions mix with the modern atmosphere, they flood it with non-radioactive carbon.Types of Fossils There are two main types of fossils: body fossils and trace fossils.A body fossil is the physical remains of an animal. Some very small organisms, called microbacteria, leave behind microscopic particles called filaments.In radiocarbon dating terms this makes the atmosphere appear older, which is reflected in the tissues of plants taking in CO2 during photosynthesis, and their products such as cottons.At the rate fossil fuel emissions are currently increasing, by 2050 a new T-shirt would have the same radiocarbon date as a robe worn by William the Conqueror a thousand years earlier.
Fossils are the remains of animals or plants that lived a long time ago.