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Radiocarbon dating, which is used to calculate the age of certain organic materials, has been found to be unreliable, and sometimes wildly so - a discovery that could upset previous studies on climate change, scientists from China and Germany said in a new paper.Their recent analysis of sediment from the largest freshwater lake in northeast China showed that its carbon clock stopped ticking as early as 30,000 years ago, or nearly half as long as was hitherto thought.To measure the amount of radiocarbon left in a artifact, scientists burn a small piece to convert it into carbon dioxide gas.Radiation counters are used to detect the electrons given off by decaying C-14 as it turns into nitrogen.

For over 50 years, scientists and researchers have relied on carbon dating to find the exact age of organic matter.The amount of C-14 is compared to the amount of C-12, the stable form of carbon, to determine how much radiocarbon has decayed, thereby dating the artifact.Exponential Decay Formula: A = A" is the original amount of the radioactive isotope that is measured in the same units as "A." The value "t" is the time it takes to reduce the original amount of the isotope to the present amount, and "k" is the half-life of the isotope, measured in the same units as "t." The applet allows you to choose the C-14 to C-12 ratio, then calculates the age of our skull from the formula above.Measurements have shown that in recent history, radiocarbon levels have remained relatively constant in most of the biosphere due to the metabolic processes in living organisms and the relatively rapid turnover of carbonates in surface ocean waters.After the organism dies, carbon-14 continues to decay without being replaced.

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