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.
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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.
Carbon 14 is thought to be mainly a product of bombardment of the atmosphere by cosmic rays, so cosmic ray intensity would affect the amount of carbon 14 in the environment at any given time.
#30,000-Year Limit The Lamont-Doherty group says uranium-thorium dating not only is more precise than carbon dating in some cases, but also can be used to date much older objects.
But the tree ring record goes no further, so scientists have sought other indicators of age against which carbon dates can be compared.
One such indicator is the uranium-thorium dating method used by the Lamont-Doherty group.This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996.To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.In principle, any material of plant or animal origin, including textiles, wood, bones and leather, can be dated by its content of carbon 14, a radioactive form of carbon in the environment that is incorporated by all living things.Because it is radioactive, carbon 14 steadily decays into other substances.If 50% of the radioactive isotope is left one half life has passed.