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The researchers wanted to find out if they could identify a person's year of birth or year of death using precise measurements of carbon-14 levels in different post-mortem tissues.
They measured carbon-14 levels in various tissues from 36 humans whose birth and death dates were known.
Barring any future nuclear detonations, this method should continue to be useful for year-of-birth determinations for people born during the next 10 or 20 years.
Everyone born after that would be expected to have the same level of carbon-14 that prevailed before the nuclear testing era.
This technique is widely used on recent artifacts, but educators and students alike should note that this technique will not work on older fossils (like those of the dinosaurs alleged to be millions of years old).In contrast, from 1955 to 1963, atmospheric radiocarbon levels almost doubled.Since then they have been dropping back toward natural levels.All the people whose tissues were tested for the study were residents of the United States.Atmospheric dispersion tends to create uniform levels of carbon-14 around the globe, and researchers believe that these would be reflected in human tissues regardless of location.