Post bomb carbon dating

27-Mar-2016 04:20

Barley, which is used to make whiskey, is organic material, and thus scientists can examine whiskey for trace amounts of radioactive carbon and determine when it was made.The majority of the testing is done for the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, a scientific center that aims to maintain distilled beverage quality, improve distilled beverage manufacturing and preserve the integrity of the industry by authenticating products (such as vintage whiskey). Tom Higham, deputy director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, says that the majority of the whiskey samples sent to them end up turning out to be from after the 1950s.The new method is based on the fact that over the past 60 years, environmental levels of radiocarbon have been significantly perturbed by mid-20th-century episodes of above-ground nuclear weapons testing.Before the nuclear age, the amount of radiocarbon in the environment varied little in the span of a century.Over the past six decades, the amount of radiocarbon in people or their remains depends heavily on when they were born or, more precisely, when their tissues were formed.

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“Carbon dating works by comparing the amount of carbon 14, which is a less common and less stable form of carbon, to the more abundant carbon 12.” The ratio between these two forms of carbon held consistent for thousands of years, but was altered by two decades of atomic bomb testing after World War II, which increased the amount of radioactive carbon 14 in the atmosphere.

In contrast, from 1955 to 1963, atmospheric radiocarbon levels almost doubled.