Ally Dyson, NPL Press
CHICAGO, IL — Melanie Cross, intern at Chicago’s Field Museum paleontology department, stirred up controversy when she went on record as saying, “In my opinion, dating, on some fossil specimens, may in fact be wrong. I even have reason to believe that some test, specifically on the recent discoveries of a large, obviously extinct penguin species found in Peru and New Zealand which dated the fossils to 25-36 million years [ago], are so grossly inaccurate that the species may have gone extinct as recently as only one to two thousand years ago. Carbon dating should have been used when determining the age of the finds, not radioisotope-dating as was used. In fact, I believe that the Pre-Incan Huari people may have hunted these animals.”
Department head, Dr. Joseph M. Crane, countered the statement. “Radioisotope-dating, while not exact, is very reliable and an important tool in our field of study. The specimens, to which Miss Cross was referring to, were a variation of Humboldt penguin, which indeed did go extinct approximately 1500 years ago, and, in fact, were dated through radiocarbon-dating.”
When asked what this meant for the intern’s status, Dr. Crane replied, “Unfortunately, Miss Cross has forfeited her internship, not for her lack of knowledge, that is why we have intern programs, but for her general lack of prudence while making such outlandish claims against our department, which could harm our institution’s reputation.”
Radiocarbon-dating and Radioisotope-dating are used in determining the age of a fossil or archaeological find. Carbon dating measures the rate of decay in carbon and is used for finds which are guessed to be between 50,000 to 60,000 years old. Isotope dating measures the decay rate of unstable isotopes, such as Uranium-235, and is used for rocks believed to be in the millions of years old. Carbon and radioactive isotopes decay at a steady rate. Knowing the rate of decay allows scientists to predict the age of rocks and minerals.
Melanie Cross has not been able to be reached for further comment.