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Most radiocarbon dating today is done using an accelerator mass spectrometer, an instrument that directly counts the numbers of carbon 14 and carbon12 in a sample.

A detailed description of radiocarbon dating is available at the Wikipedia radiocarbon dating web page.

This plot shows the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere as measured in New Zealand (red) and Austria (green), representing the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, respectively.

It can be used on objects as old as about 62,000 years.Among the significant events that caused a temporary but significant spike in the atmospheric carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio were above-ground nuclear test detonations in the two decades following World War II.is a term for radiocarbon dating based on timestamps left by above-ground nuclear explosions, and it is especially useful for putting an absolute age on organisms that lived through those events.Scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Laboratory of Columbia University at Palisades, N.Y., reported today in the British journal Nature that some estimates of age based on carbon analyses were wrong by as much as 3,500 years.

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