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[Faux Real: A Gallery of Forgeries] To solve this art historical enigma, scientists from the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) took a tiny piece of the canvas from an unpainted edge of the work.
Scientists and art historians have developed what they say is a foolproof way of identifying forged works of art.
They can distinguish between art created before 1945 and that produced after that date by measuring levels of the isotopes caesium–137 and strontium–90.
A painting in the Guggenheim collection initially attributed to French modern artist Fernand Léger has languished out of view for decades after it was suspected to be a fake.
Now scientists have confirmed that the artwork is a indeed forgery; in a first, they detected faint signatures of Cold War-era nuclear bombs in the canvas that reveal the painting was created after Léger's death.
Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.
Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.
Archaeologists are able to use their knowledge of radioactive decay when they need to know the date of an object they dug up.
C-14 locked in an object from several thousand years ago will decay at a certain rate.
The loss of those neutrons is called radioactive decay. For carbon, the decay happens in a few thousand years (5,730 years).