Carbon dating and reliability

Recently, however, researchers at Purdue University observed a small (a fraction of a percent), transitory deviation in radioactive decay at the time of a huge solar flare.Data from laboratories in New York and Germany also have shown similarly tiny deviations over the course of a year.

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Recent puzzling observations of tiny variations in nuclear decay rates have led some to question the science of using decay rates to determine the relative ages of rocks and organic materials.

Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), working with researchers from Purdue University, the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Wabash College, tested the hypothesis that solar radiation might affect the rate at which radioactive elements decay and found no detectable effect.

Recent puzzling observations of tiny variations in nuclear decay rates have led some to question the science behind carbon-14 dating and similar techniques.

However scientists tested the hypothesis that solar radiation might affect the rate at which radioactive elements decay and found no detectable effect.

According to NIST scientist emeritus Richard Lindstrom, the variations observed in other experiments may have been due to environmental conditions interfering with the instruments themselves.

"There are always more unknowns in your measurements than you can think of," Lindstrom says.

This has led some to suggest that Earth's distance from the sun, which varies during the year and affects the planet's exposure to solar neutrinos, might be related to these anomalies.

Researchers from NIST and Purdue tested this by comparing radioactive gold-198 in two shapes, spheres and thin foils, with the same mass and activity. The team reasoned that if neutrinos are affecting the decay rate, the atoms in the spheres should decay more slowly than the atoms in the foil because the neutrinos emitted by the atoms in the spheres would have a greater chance of interacting with their neighboring atoms.

Some scientists argue that the magnetic field of the earth has declined over time.

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