Drawbacks of radiocarbon dating

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Thanks to nuclear physics, mass spectrometers have been fine-tuned to separate a rare isotope from an abundant neighboring mass, and accelerator mass spectrometry was born.

Although both radiocarbon dating methods produce high-quality results, they are fundamentally different in principle.

Methuselah's tree ring sequence near its core -- when it was a young tree -- was matched to the sequence found in pieces of nearby trees which had died previously. Henry Michael of the University of Pennsylvania's Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) scanned the area almost every summer for over three decades.

His goal was to find sections of dead trees whose rings could be pieced together to extend the samples as far back in time as possible.

There are essentially two parts in the process of radiocarbon dating through accelerator mass spectrometry.

The first part involves accelerating the ions to extraordinarily high kinetic energies, and the subsequent step involves mass analysis.

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