Much of our understanding of the ancient history of our planet comes from radioisotope dating, a process where scientists calculate the amount of certain isotopes in a geological sample to determine how old it is.
But according to new research out of North Carolina State University, a flaw in this widely-used technique may be skewing the results so samples seem much older than they really are.
We are told that of all the radiometric dates that are measured, only a few percent are anomalous.
But, as the NC State study suggests, that final figure might not be taking other variables into account.
For one, the atoms of different elements will diffuse through a material at different rates due to a process known as differential mass diffusion.
The most important archaeological dating method is radiocarbon dating.
It is a technique that can yield absolute dates with accuracy up to approximately 5000 years before present.
By calculating the ratios of rubidium-87 to strontium-86, and strontium-86 to strontium-87, a graph called an isochron is created, which scientists can then use to determine the age of a sample.
The process works best on igneous rocks, and has been used to study Earthly and lunar formations for decades.
The researchers found significant conlusions, which may be important for the outcomes of various industries relying on radiocarbon technology.
The question now is, just how do fossil fuel emissions spark the possibility of inaccurate radiocarbon dating?
Since there doesn't seem to be any systematic error that could cause so many methods to agree with each other so often, it seems that there is no other rational conclusion than to accept these dates as accurate.