Could nuclear weapons testing be used to preserve life, instead of representing the ultimate destruction of?
via New Scientist
Nuclear bomb tests 50 years ago have given us a conservation weapon. Determining the levels ofradioactive isotope in ivory should allow us to find out whether it is being illegally traded.
The amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere peaked in 1962 just before the introduction of an international ban on surface testing of nuclear weapons. The rapid rise and subsequent decline of this isotope is known as the bomb curve.
Animal cells take up carbon-14 when they are formed, and because the decay rate of carbon-14 is known, the time of death can be deduced from the amount ofisotope left. Linking the amount of carbon-14 found in organic material with the bomb curve has been used to date human tooth enamel and even regenerating brain cells.
Kevin Uno at Columbia University in Palisades, New York, and colleagues have now used the technique to test 29 samples including elephant tusks and rhino horn collected in East Africa.