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Carbon-14 Dating Reveals 5% of Vintage Wines May Be Frauds

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the better-than-backdating-a-check dept.

Australia 336

Carbon dating isn't used only for such academic pursuits as trying to determine the age of the Shroud of Turin, or figure out how old some rocks are. An anonymous reader writes "Up to 5% of fine wines are not from the year the label indicates, according to Australian researchers who have carbon-dated some top dollar wines."

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-1 wine snobs (1, Funny)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563406)

hurray!

Re:-1 wine snobs (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563506)

Isn't it funny how wine connoisseurs play this weird guessing game.

"Can you guess what wine it is?"

"Chateu Latour 1986?"

"Nooooo! 1985!!!"

"Damn! So close!!!"

I mean, you don't exactly hear winos on the street going...

"Yes, fantastic vintage!" "About four O'Clock!"
"Goes well with the carcass of KFC, from bin number four..."

Re:-1 wine snobs (4, Funny)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563590)

Oh, my. There was a hysterically funny sketch on Carol Burnett, decades about an alcoholic wine expert who was lured into a final tasting match against another expert. His opponent's failing description included the type of wine, the year, the winery, and the name of the girl who stomped the grapes. But he got the name of the girl wrong.

The alcoholic's winning description was "Isss g-o-o-d".

-3.14 Reference Snobs (-1, Flamebait)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563894)

Re:-3.14 Reference Snobs (4, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564064)

So has Monty Python, and it's probably still in the top 10 references on slashdot...

Re:-1 wine snobs (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564174)

No, but you do have geeks who sit around forums and hunt for screen shots from obscure old 80s games to try and make each other guess them.

First (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563410)

First

Re:First (1, Offtopic)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563504)

Why hasn't slashdot implemented a filter that eliminates "first post" asshats? I don't think it would be all that complicated.

now mod me offtopic

No One Would Notice (5, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563412)

I've had a $400 wine before (obtained at a decent price and then aged). The difference between a decent $20-$40 wine and a $400 one is minimal relative to the price.

I doubt anyone without a really refined palate would be able to notice. And even if you did, you would probably chalk it up to poor storage or oxidation or something.

Re:No One Would Notice (5, Insightful)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563472)

I agree. While price matters to a certain extent (a cheap $10 bottle from the grocery might not be as good as a nice wine), spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a bottle of wine is a proposition with extraordinarily diminishing returns.

When you see how absurd some of those prices are, it's not surprising that you have people trying to fake it for a quick buck.

Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (5, Insightful)

Aargau (827662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563580)

It's always more interesting when there are multiple viewpoints on an issue, and I'm happy to take the contrary one. I've tasted 2 buck Chuck (quite good), and tasted $100-$1000 dollar bottles. There is actually a difference that's discernable by I'd guess at least 40% of wine drinkers, and while I'm open to the idea that we can replicate some of the properties of the top wines cheaply, and that certain top wines are counterfeited, I still posit that the top, expensive wines are an experience that are worth paying for, at least once or twice in one's life. To test, I'd recommend splitting among a few friends an Opus One from Costco for around $100, which can be 40% of the retail price. It's consistently a top wine and will enlighten you if you're in that sad, obsessive, minority of folks who care enough to spend crazy money on good wines :)

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (5, Informative)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563680)

I'm from Argentina. We produce some of the finest wines in the world, specially in Mendoza.
t,
Here, a cheap, average wine that most people drink at home with dinner retails at ~$9 (That is, 9 pesos, or 2.3 Dollars.)

A relatively good wine retails ~$20 (5.2 dollars). At $150 (39 dollars), you can get one of the finest wines you'll ever taste.

The funny thing is, while traveling to the USA, I've recognized bottles that Retail here for ~$35 (9 dollars), with tags of 250 dollars!

So, leaving that aside, yes, you can definitely tell the difference, but it's not all about money. You can definitely tell the difference between any two wines. But, with wine, price is not always = quality. I've tested $200 wines that I didn't like (like the Lamadrid Gran Reserva Malbec) , and $20 (5 dollars) wines that I loved (Like Benjamin Nieto Cabernet Sauvignon)

So, money plays a big role, but there's not a clear relationship between price and quality. It's more of a threshold ... you won't find really good wines very cheap. But above a certain price, there are good and bad wines at a very ample price range

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (3, Informative)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563932)

Mod parent up. The exact same thing is noticeable in France.

I love cooking with wine in quite a few different dishes and styles. I always used the cheapo wines I could find, and in southern France (as in, 30 miles from the Spanish border), a cheap wine is something you get between 1 EUR per 750ml bottle and 3-4 EUR per 5 litre box.

When I moved to the UK, the cheapest I could find began at 6-7 GBP. In France, most people drink (or should I say, absorb) 3 EUR bottles. They'll go for a 12 EUR bottle when they're feeling fancy. You rarely see people going for the 30+ EUR bottles, unless it's a dining party and you have to bring a gift.

The first time I tasted a 100+ GBP was in London. And yeah, sure, it was nice to have a penguin decant it and use a spotless napkin to absorb the couple of drops that would otherwise have hit the tablecloth, but for all intents and purposes, the 12 EUR wine will do just fine.

That being said, I agree with grandparent though. Going for a 4 digit wine is a once in a lifetime experience that people who can afford it should definitely pay up for. Make sure to bring a wine-knowledgeable friend with you that night too, that way if it tastes like crap and you don't know if you ought to start shouting, your mate will make that decision for you.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564130)

The other reason wine is so cheap in Argentina/France/Spain is that we drink way too much red wine ;)

The only places in the world where I've seen people drinking red wine at a bar at 10 A.M are Buenos Aires, Madrid and Paris.

I've got to hand it to you people the finest Wine, Woman and Cheese are French.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (4, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564136)

"that way if it tastes like crap and you don't know if you ought to start shouting, your mate will make that decision for you."

If you don't know whether or not it's crap then how on earth can you say that drinking a $1000+ wine is something that you should pay for EVER? It's not a memorable experience if you have to be TOLD that it's a memorable experience. If you can't recognize the difference between a $20 and $1000 wine by yourself then there isn't any damn point in buying the $1000 bottle.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

crazybit (918023) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563990)

At Peru you can get a 2 lt. bottle of a fine Rose for about US$ 50, from one of our award winning companies. They are cheap because in this area of South America the climate and soil are exceptionally productive and abundant. One of them, Santiago Queirolo, has a 100 km2 Vineyard, in which they produce: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Petit Verdot, Trebiano Bianco, Quebranta, Torontel. They produce wine since 1880.
You can see pictures here [santiagoqueirolo.com] .

As Argentina, we sell great quality wines for a good price, it's the middlemen the ones who raise the price to the skies.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564102)

Yup, I know. I've been to Peru. Beautiful country, and truly good wines.

But, to be honest, wine is not my favorite Peruvian export, if you know what I mean ;)

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (5, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564016)

Hmm.

So, it's like beer, cigars, women, clothes, and cars. You often get what you pay for, but if you try a bit, you'll find that you can save a lot of money while getting a lot more.

Nothing to see here, folks.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31564106)

I agree with your post, there are excellent wines that aren't all that expensive because of lacking pedigree.

I have never drunk an Argentinean wine, but some Chilean wines are quite decent. In the end the grape is the most important factor.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564138)

Totally agreed. It's not my intention to start a flame war here, but Argentinian wines are far superior to any Chilean wine you'll ever taste. One of the finest Chile has is El Gato Negro, and is nothing compared to even cheap Argentinian wines like Lopez or Norton clasico.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31564178)

Odd, I looked up some of the wines you mentioned and the US prices of current releases is no where near what you quoted (well I wasn't sure if you were stating US or Ar dollars so my bad if I'm off base). Lamadrid Gran Reserva Malbec 2005 is a $22-30 US a bottle at a high volume discount outlet. Benjamin Nieto Cabernet Sauvignon doesn't seem to have any US distribution so I can't say (I'd buy some on a lark if I could find a source at the mentioned price of course).

Vintage is the crazy thing in the wine world. If you have the space, make youself a workable wine cellar, drink young wines and buy in those you like by the case and store them for 6-10 years. You'll be drinking high dollar wines when you start tapping into your storage at the cost of storage space. The whole wine game gets crazy when you get away form buying young wines, yea really crazy. I'm lazy, I just decant young wines!

Oddly enough I was buying an American Mertiage that was really pretty good and it cost me a whole $6.22 US a bottle. Sometimes you get a crazy situation where a really big retailer buys a metric ton of good wine and blows it out at a stupid cheap price, but it's rare. It was Cameron Hughes lot 150 and was a Sams Club exclusive if anybody can find any. Every once and a while you can buy a good cheap wine, but I just wish it was more often.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563700)

I have tasted high end wines. I do enjoy wine. I just find the diminishing returns of price to be seriously in play once you get past $50-$100 or so. Is a $500 bottle of wine better than a $50 bottle? In most cases yes. Is it actually 10 times better? Almost never.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

Aargau (827662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564030)

Diminishing returns are a good metric for return on investment, but there's something unique about the best you've ever achieved. I guess a good analogy is (the obvious one, of course) women. Some people would never make the calculus that it's worth it to spend 5x as much effort chasing a 10 as an 8 (relative to one's rating system).

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (2, Informative)

m509272 (1286764) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563802)

We have wine nearly every day. There's no need to spend more than $100 and there's plenty of wines under $60. I'm talking wine store not restaurant. The number of wines that I've had over $200 that I've went wow this is amazing is pretty much zero. There were a handful of wines in the $100-$200 and those wines are at that price because they got high ratings which drove them up. Before that they were sub $100. I've spoken to numerous winemakers and quite a number of them say we have to have a >$100 wine because so and so has one and people that know nearly nothing about wine but have a lot of money will buy just on price, that being expensive. Seek out the little brothers of wines like Grange which are considerably less in cost. The same holds true for some of the high end Spanish wines and some of the Italian wines. If the year is a good one for 20-40% of the flagship wine you get a really great bottle and that wine is being made from some of the same grapes in the high end wine. For $15-$30 there's probably a thousand good/very good wines. Yes, there are some really great finds for even less than that and even in a box. For parties, Powers Cabernet from Washington State is quite good. $6 bottle in a box, $13 in glass. Same wine. It boils down to one thing drink what you like regardless of cost but do try others when given the chance because you might be surprised on what you're missing. Go to wine tastings where you can taste the overpriced but more importantly try wines in the price range which you will spend when buying. It really irks me when people go from table to table and just taste the 1 or 2 most expensive wines at a table of 12-20.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

bbhack (98541) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563842)

There is a spectrum from super-taster (a sommelier) to a non-taster (someone who likes, not just tolerates, McDs).

I don't know where I lie in the spectrum, except it's more taster than non. And I have never had anything better than about $100 retail.

A good wine must be matched to the food, and I don't begrudge someone with the money and desire to enjoy the expensive stuff, but I think I'm happy sticking well under $100, even though I would drop $50 at the store per week if my conscience would allow.

All of this assumes a fair market in wine, and the sellers are not taking advantage of and mocking the poseurs.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (3, Insightful)

teh dave (1618221) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563914)

Diminishing returns applies to most products though. Cars, computers, mobile phones, food, houses, clothing... And audio equipment. Most people can't appreciate the quality and faithful sound reproduction of a good audio system, which is a shame because if more people could, then more people would buy better equipment, and consequently, the really expensive stuff wouldn't be as expensive as it is.

Like with wine, I believe that most people would be able to hear the difference between the cheap $0.05 shit that Apple bundles with their products and an infinitely nicer pair of $60-$100 phones, if only they'd actually take the time to listen. Also like wine, being able to appreciate a $2000 set of headphones is not common. And again like wine, you don't know how bad Apple headphones are until you try something better.

Re:Let me take a pro-expensive wine position (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563934)

One winery I visit has a unique wine dispensing system so you can sample 1,2,or 4oz of $200 bottles of wine for a fraction of the full price. I've found the $20-40 bottle price point to be the biggest gamble. I've tasted many wines in this price range that were worse than 2 buck chuck. $40-60 more often has a noticeable quality improvement. Sometimes I find bottles above that price range that are higher quality, but more often than not I find myself paying more for a wine that isn't any better than a lot of the $40 bottles I've tried. Most bottles I purchase however are ~$15, because the quality may not be tier 1, but is still excellent. I've never tried Opus One; I'll be sure to take your advice.

Re:No One Would Notice (5, Funny)

jrumney (197329) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563832)

In many ways the wine market is similar to the hifi market. If only the butler had opened the wine using the correct polarisation of the Oxygen Free Corkscrew, you might have noticed the difference.

Re:No One Would Notice (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563572)

Why is the parent modded troll? This is the concensus even amongst wine connoisseurs. There is a huge difference between a very high end wine such as a Grange Hermitage, and say a lowly poets corner, but that difference is still smaller than $12 compared to $599 (2000 vintage).

And what's the difference between a Grange and a Mouton Rothschild? Very subtle differences in pallete flavour etc, but quite a bit of price difference. $1107 for a 2000 vintage, (one of the best since 1986).

Seriously. You show me someone who says that a Mouton Rothschild is twice as good as a Grange, and 100 times as good as a poets corner, and I'll show you a person that likes to pretend he knows wine.

Re:No One Would Notice (5, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563586)

The refined palate is the key, and while some people definitely have it, most people don't taste nearly enough wine to develop it (and I mean sip-spit, not sip-sip-sip).

For most people a $400 bottle of wine is nothing more than a status symbol, they'd probably enjoy a less complicated $20 wine a hell of a lot more.

Note: personally, I can barely remember which types of wines I like, let alone get all snobbish on age and vinyard.

Re:No One Would Notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563884)

For most people a $400 bottle of wine is nothing more than a status symbol, they'd probably enjoy a less complicated $20 wine a hell of a lot more.

No. Those people would not enjoy a less complicated $20 wine a hell of a lot more.

Why?

Because they couldn't be pretentious snobs with a wine that cost only $20.

Re:No One Would Notice (1)

stuckinphp (1598797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563928)

TFA says otherwise 5% of the time.

Re:No One Would Notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31564084)

If they *think* the wine cost far more than $20 they'll happily be pretentious without regard for the actual value of the wine.

Re:No One Would Notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31564082)

Is this refined palate then something good or bad? =P

Re:No One Would Notice (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563604)

Parent is not a troll. I too have had some relatively expensive wine and the difference between $10 to $20 is far greater than the difference between $20 and $200 and most wine/food magazines+blogs will agree.

The only time I have ended up drinking really expensive wine is when I'm being wined and dined by a sales droid. I've never dated anyone who thought it was important to drink any bottle over $20, but I would be interested to know of people who have.

Re:No One Would Notice (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563714)

Yep absolutely. There's a sweet spot in that 20-30 dollar range where you're getting 80% of the quality of a top wine for 10% of the price. Bit like buying computer hardware really :)

Re:No One Would Notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563608)

You or I might not notice, but that's like saying that nobody would notice the difference (blindfolded, let's say) between a performance from the Emerson string quartet and a typical conservatory quartet. Casual listeners might not, but avid (not necessarily brilliant) listeners would.

Re:No One Would Notice (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563666)

Those people, however, are the rare exception. The very very rare exception.

Re:No One Would Notice (4, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563626)

$400 dollar wine is much like gold plated ethernet cables. Only less so.

You must be referring to Monster Wine (2)

m509272 (1286764) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563682)

You must be referring to Monster Wine. Uh oh......

Re:No One Would Notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563756)

Yeah, but as a /.er I just HAVE to have gold plated Ethernet cables. Only those not in the know would dare be caught with anything else.

Re:No One Would Notice (1)

rve (4436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563872)

$400 dollar wine is much like gold plated ethernet cables. Only less so.

Gold plated wine is absolutely exquisite

Re:No One Would Notice (5, Insightful)

MishgoDog (909105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563718)

I drink a lot of wine, with a wide range of prices, and disagree.
While it certainly isn't a linear relationship to price, or indeed certain, I have had a lot of very expensive wine which I am more than happy to pay for because I can taste the difference.

I can find a $15 I like and drink, a $30 a love and drink a lot, and a $70 I savour and purely enjoy. The >$300 bottles I've had (not paid for by me, I'm a young professional supporting a student wife!), are usually better than the lot - just not (say) 10 times better than the $30 bottle.

To translate into geekspeak: a top of the line i7 processor might cost 10 times what a midrange 775pin would cost, but doesn't perform the same as 10 of the cheaper processor. Indeed, the majority of users (i.e. browsing & word processing) may not notice the difference.
But some people who are into their computers will definitely notice the difference, and will pay the extra.
I know the metaphor isn't perfect, but you get the gist.

All of that being said - aging wine can be a bit of pot luck unless the conditions are perfect.

Re:No One Would Notice (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564074)

I've had a $400 wine before (obtained at a decent price and then aged).

Well, that's your problem. It tastes much better when you pay $400 for it upfront!

C14 isn't used for rocks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563416)

Considering the limit of C-14 dating is approximately 40,000 years BP, it isn't really all that useful for dating rocks unless you are a young-earth creationist.

Re:C14 isn't used for rocks... (1)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563530)

This is the point I also came here to make. Samarium-neodymium dating [wikipedia.org] is used for older stuff, like those rocks.

Re:C14 isn't used for rocks... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563536)

Beat me to it. Not useful for rocks unless they're very young. And that claim was made all the worse by linking to an article about rocks hundreds of millions of years old.

Re:C14 isn't used for rocks... (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563584)

The other problem is that C14 dating is only valid for organic matter. It's not valid for coal deposits because trace radioactive elements screw things up and make the rocks appear far younger than they are. This is one thing young earth creationists capitalize on....

Re:C14 isn't used for rocks... (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563854)

It's useless for coal because coal is typically more than 10 half-lives of C14 old. The longest estimates for C14 accuracy seem to range up to 60,000 years (mentioned over on Wikipedia).

Re:C14 isn't used for rocks... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563612)

Erm, sorry -- just checked the article again, and it was about rocks mulitple *billions* of years old. They were dated by neodymium-samarium dating [wikipedia.org]

Alternate Headline (5, Funny)

wjc_25 (1686272) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563438)

95% of carbon datings may be inaccurate, says new wine grower-sponsored study.

Re:Alternate Headline (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564092)

95% of carbon datings may be inaccurate, says new wine grower-sponsored study.

Don't tell the Creation Institute about that study.
     

The finer things in life. (4, Funny)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563446)

This is why I only drink Jolt and 151.

Re:The finer things in life. (4, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563526)

Man, that's hardcore. Do you shit yourself in your sleep?

Re:The finer things in life. (1)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563900)

Nah, I call it diet moonshine though.

Old Enough? (2, Insightful)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563448)

As I understand it, carbon dating doesn't work well for young items. Are vintage wines old enough for accurate carbon dating?

Re:Old Enough? (5, Informative)

rnaiguy (1304181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563488)

There is a trick that can be used to date things from the 2nd half of the 20th century. Nuclear bomb testing caused a spike in atmospheric C14, which is rapidly decreasing as it equilibrates with the oceans (among other things). The actual radioactive decay is insignificant on this timescale, and so we can get a pretty good idea if the grapes used to make the wine were plucked after nuclear testing began, and if so what year they were harvested. This technique has also been used in biology to date the "birth" of cells in human tissues.

Re:Old Enough? (1)

EL_mal0 (777947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563514)

It sounds like you're thinking of tritium (3H).

Re:Old Enough? (5, Informative)

rnaiguy (1304181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563594)

No, I'm thinking of C14. Which is produced when all the excess neutrons from a nuclear blast smash into atmospheric nitrogen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14 [wikipedia.org]

here's the biology reference: http://www.pnas.org/content/103/33/12564.long [pnas.org]

these guys pioneered the tech for use in biology, but then it was popularly applied to wines.

Re:Old Enough? (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563888)

GP isn't completely wrong though. Tritiated thymidine [wikipedia.org] was commonly used to label cells which were actively taking up DNA and were therefore proliferating. BrdU is more commonly used today. Both are somewhat more convenient than utilizing nuclear bomb tests.

I find the article very interesting given the history of adult neurogenesis. Pasko Rakic, who communicated the paper, was initially very skeptical of those results:

At the time, the new technique of labelling a cell with thymidine to determine the birth date of neurons was used in newborns, since adult animals were not thought to create new neurons. But Altman decided to try the technique with adults. He published several papers in the most reputable scientific journals, claiming that new neurons are formed in the brains of adult rats, cats, and guinea pigs–a discovery that Nottebohm later made with canaries. Because the techniques Altman used were primitive, however, they were open to reasonable doubt. It was a classic example of a discovery made ahead of its time. At first, Altman was ignored, then he was ridiculed, and finally, after failing to receive tenure at M.I.T., he moved to Purdue. With no recognition, he was quickly forgotten. The field almost dried up. A decade later, Michael Kaplan, a researcher at Boston University and later at the University of New Mexico, used an electron microscope to supply more compelling evidence that several parts of the adult brain, including the cortex, also produced neurons. He, too, met resistance from researchers who did not find his work convincing. ("Those may look like neurons in New Mexico,'' Kaplan remembers Rakic saying at the time. "But they don't in New Haven.") Kaplan had published his findings in important journals and even suggested a novel way to test the phenomenon in humans, but he, too, was ignored, and he left the field.

source [michaelspecter.com]

Rakic has admitted he was wrong, and I think his criticisms weren't unfounded. The immunohistochemistry demonstrating they are real neurons, for one thing, adresses some of the major concerns he had with the previous studies. Still, it's interesting: the "novel way" to test it in humans was look at brain sections of people who had been treated for cancer with BrdU, proposed decades ago, at the time it was considered too difficult. The study you cited does that and also uses nuclear tests to further illustrate the point.

Re:Old Enough? (2, Informative)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563638)

No, he's right that it's 14C. Tritium gets incorporated into water, so it gets spread around very quickly and regularly. It also has a relatively short half life (~12 years). 14C released in nuclear testing mostly winds up as CO2, which gets pulled out of the air fast enough to serve as a useful marker but not so fast that it isn't still useful decades after the end of atmospheric testing.

Re:Old Enough? (1)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563672)

No, some brief Googling along with the second page of the article confirms hist statements.

Re:Old Enough? (4, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563734)

I saw that episode of White Collar too! ;)

Re:Old Enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31564040)

Quote the summary:

"Carbon dating isn't all used for such academic pursuits as trying to determine the age of the Shroud of Turin, or figure out how old some rocks are"

My Geologist Husband: "What?!?!?! Carbon dating is NOT used for finding the age of the oldest rock! Radiocarbon dating is good to 60,000 years at best. The half-life of C-14 is about 5700 years! There are a number of different techniques, like argon-argon (1250 million years half-life), but we almost never use C-14, unless you are a creationist or looking at peat moss.

Excellent work. (5, Funny)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563450)

  1. Buy a bunch of expensive wine
  2. Carbon date a small sample.
  3. Dispose of the rest thoughtfully.

Some days I'm proud to be an Australian.

Re:Excellent work. (-1, Redundant)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563596)

Buy a bunch of expensive wine
Carbon date a small sample.
Have giant pissup
Some days I'm proud to be an Australian.

Fixed that for ya.

Re:Excellent work. (4, Funny)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563602)

Whoosh

Fixed that for you.

Re:Excellent work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563848)

That whooshed me. Please explain.

Re:Excellent work. (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564000)

OK Pauline, How was changing 'Dispose of the rest thoughtfully' to 'Have giant pissup' fixing my original post?

Re:Excellent work. (2, Informative)

R3coiler (1740032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563650)

I'm going to have to try this with beer. For science, of course.

hmm can we use it on ideas? (0)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563470)

i'd like to know just how old are some things people in washington have in their heads

Hyo8o (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563512)

More accuracy (2, Funny)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563524)

Ya know, they'd get way more accuracy measuring these fine wines age if they used oxygen depleted gold plated monster cables on their equipment...

Re:More accuracy (1)

nohumor (1735852) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563614)

i too hate the super expensive "gold plated monster cable" when a cheap $10 would do just fine but lets not blame monster for inflating wine prices

English (0, Offtopic)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563542)

Carbon dating isn't all used for such academic pursuits ...

Would someone please translate this into English? Oh, and if this was the editor's attempt, I would hate to see the submission!

Re:English (0, Offtopic)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563600)

What? he card read good!

Dammit (5, Insightful)

Colonel Sponsz (768423) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563544)

Carbon dating isn't all used for such academic pursuits as trying to determine the age of the Shroud of Turin, or figure out how old some rocks are.

The summary writer fails basic science. Carbon dating isn't used, and can't be used for dating rocks. Various forms of radiometric dating can be used, but carbon dating? Hell no. In the words of Youtube's creationism debunker Potholer54 [youtube.com] , "because there's no f-ing carbon in it!".

Re:Dammit (5, Informative)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563754)

"because there's no f-ing carbon in it!".

There are plenty of rocks that contain carbon. Good examples include limestone, marble, coal, and oil shale. The problem isn't lack of carbon. The problem is that the half life of 14C is very short compared to the age of most rocks, so there isn't enough radiocarbon left to date.

Re:Dammit (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563782)

What would you call coal? Or diamond? Or graphite? A fluid?

Carbon dating isn't used for coal because it's typically far older than the roughly 50,000 years carbon dating is usable for, and because for most of it the source of carbon may be far, far older, rather than containing C14 released into the biosphere, especially via the atmosphere, from radioactive decay. It's not not because there's "no carbon".

The mishandling of C14 claims used by creationists is its own amusing topic: please don't confuse the two.

Escalation of certainty (1)

xarium (608956) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563570)

"The team of researchers think "vintage fraud" is widespread..."

Eh, "think"?
But the headline sounds so certain.

"According to the study, wine experts have estimated that up to 5% of fine wines sold today are not all they are cracked up to be..."

Ah. "estimated". Nowhere do they even mention running the tests in anger. Only proving the tests work when calibrated to known values.

The reporter left it till the end to admit, and /. reports it as an absolute truth. Disingenuous at best.

carbon dating problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563576)

I was told by an archaelogist associate of mine that carbon dating gives very wild results unless its properly calibrated with something found nearby that can be historically verified. He mentioned that the last time the French tested a nuke in the pacific (?) that messed up calibrations worldwide and they had to redo all their calibation data sets. Carbon-14 dating isn't all its cracked up to be.

Re:carbon dating problems (2, Informative)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563748)

He mentioned that the last time the French tested a nuke in the pacific (?)

Why the question mark there? FYI, France is notorious for its love of nukes. [wikipedia.org]

Non-news ... (0)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563578)

5% of wines? More like at least 5% of anything you can get.

Take any market, and you'll have, at the very least, 5% of fraudulent products. Off course, it's bigger in some other markets, but I'm pretty sure it's at least 5%.

This would be news if we got a way higher number. 5% sounds average to me.
Or, at least it's average compared to other markets like religion, where 100% of the offered 'goods' are fake ;)

Re:Non-news ... (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563828)

I would be astonished if anywhere near 5% of Caterpillar heavy equipment sold in the United States was fake.

Re:Non-news ... (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563898)

I said in every market. Not in every brand.

Now, take the whole market of heavy equipment, not just cat, read the specs for all of them, and you'll surely find that at least 5% of those products don't match the promised specs.

Re:Non-news ... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563992)

Market enjoys a pretty broad definition. There is a market for 'Caterpillar Heavy Equipment in North America' that exists separately from the market for heavy equipment in the Americas, and so forth.

Bad headline, hollow story (1, Informative)

1 a bee (817783) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563598)

From TFA:

The researchers think carbon-dating fine wines could help nip in the bud the growing practice of vintage fraud.

According to the study, wine experts have estimated that up to 5% of fine wines sold today are not all they are cracked up to be on the label or in the price tag.

Nothing about the researchers estimating that 5%: that's made up by the "wine experts". (They should know.)

Re:Bad headline, hollow story (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564022)

American Chemical Society Press Release [acs.org]

The scientists used a highly-sensitive analytical device called an accelerator mass spectrometer to determine the C-14 levels in the alcohol components of 20 Australian red wines with vintages from 1958 to 1997 and then compared these measurements to the radioactivity levels of known atmospheric samples.

None of the articles I googled actually says if they found any fakes in their sample size of 20.
And as usual with lazy reporting, it seems like most the articles are 95% based on that American Chemical Society press release.

misleading summary (3, Informative)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563618)

According to the study, wine experts have estimated that up to 5% of fine wines sold today are not all they are cracked up to be on the label or in the price tag

The carbon dating didn't find 5% of wines are frauds. A bunch of "wine experts" they talked to said it.

Also, it's not based off the age of the carbon in the wine; it's based off the percentage of radioactive carbon from nuclear tests. Unless they have a precise idea of exactly how much radioactive carbon ended up where after each test, the whole thing is a load of crap.

Re:misleading summary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31563726)

For the study to see if a wine's vintage can be carbon-dated, much in the same way that fossils are, the researchers measured the carbon-14 levels in the fermented sugars that give wine its alcohol content, in 20 Australian red wines from vintages from 1958 to 1997.

They then compared the measurements to radioactivity levels of known atmospheric samples, and found they were able to reliably determine the vintage of wines to within the vintage year.test, the whole thing is a load of crap.

BS Article (4, Interesting)

rozthepimp (638319) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563644)

Certain vintages (same grapestock, same vineyard, same winemaster) vary in perceived taste and value from year to year, depending on weather, harvest time, sugar content, etc. 1999 may be great, 2000 shoddy. Is C-14 dating accurate to within one year? Hmm...

Re:BS Article (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563702)

Absolutely. Wine is definitely nothing like Whiskey or Beer. You can get a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label at mostly the same price anywhere in the world, and at any point in time, and it'll taste mostly the same. You can't say the same about wines, even when they have the same label.

Re:BS Article (1)

mother_reincarnated (1099781) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563736)

Yeah buddy, actually that's what the article is all about, that they can narrow it down to a single vintage with C-14... Doesn't actually say they found 5% of the wine was fake. Shocking that the title would be inaccurate and a poster wouldn't have RTFA on Slashdot, huh? ;)

Carbon dating is not accurate by century let alone (0)

aristotle-dude (626586) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563766)

You cannot be sure what century an object is from with Carbon-14 dating let alone the year so it is useless for wines. This is without factoring in the possibility of cosmic rays speeding up the decay to make it appear older than it actually is.

Re:Carbon dating is not accurate by century let al (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563838)

The folks dating wines use several other isotopes, too. Also, I don't think in this instance they're looking to date to specific years so much as prove that because of the range a particular vintage shows in testing, it can't possibly come from a particular year.

Even if I might not be able to give you an exact year it is, but I can easily prove a whole bunch of years that it isn't. If a bottle says it's from the court of Louis XIV, but the analysis shows it's from the 1920s, that's a big deal.

Also, we have excellent records of weather conditions going back centuries from many of the wineries. So, once you combine the analysis from the isotopes with what we already know about the wine in question, we can hazard a pretty good guess to the exact year. It's very possible that a particular wine could only have come from a single year during the range we have established for it.

And I'm sure some geek will add Bayesian error fixes to it after reading the article.

Re:Carbon dating is not accurate by century let al (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564062)

There are alternate radiocarbon techniques that are much more accurate. Nuclear weapons testing resulted in a big spike in atmospheric carbon-14 levels globally, which is dropping rapidly since the test ban treaty. Biologists have been using these techniques for determining cell ages for a couple years.

More info can be found here [pnas.org]

Re:Carbon dating is not accurate by century let al (4, Informative)

DavidRawling (864446) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564096)

Or, since you HAVE read /. for a while, you could read the article. Which describes the measurement of increased C14 levels due to atmospheric fallout after detonation of nuclear weapons, and their subsequent reduction (dilution) due to fossil fuel burning, which in their testing was enough to narrow down to a specific year.

Welcome to the new world (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563948)

Today almost everything is adulterated - from Spanish and Greek olive oil (which is often either not virgin (cold-pressed) or not even olive), to milk and everything in between. Think that "100% pure Mysore Sandalwood" is actually from Mysore, or 100% pure - or even Sandalwood? Considering that Mysore Sandalwood has been illegal to harvest fr a number of years... and that Sandalwood is one of the most often adulterated essential oils... and that the great majority of people could not distinguish a 100% from a 5% essential oil, the answer is a resounding no.

Worst adulteration, as far as I know, is adding lead chromate to curry and turmeric, to improve the color: lead is deadly for your braincells, and hexavalent chromium is carcinogenic. Bon apetit!

Not much data (4, Interesting)

blamanj (253811) | more than 4 years ago | (#31563964)

That story doesn't leave much to go on, it's pretty low information content. However, it should be noted that a vintage wine [answers.com] can contain up to 15% of its grapes from another year. That would obviously skew any carbon dating results.

'Sideways': Everything you need to know bout wine (4, Funny)

Leemeng (970560) | more than 4 years ago | (#31564050)

1. Don't chew gum while tasting wine.
2. Delicate grapes on a vine can be a metaphor for your life / personality, or something.
3. If anyone orders Merlot, leave.
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