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But "even this crude level of dating can be very useful in petroleum exploration," said Moldowan, who recently moved to Stanford from Chevron.Dating the oil in a given reservoir provides important clues to its source formation, something that often is not obvious because oil can migrate large distances underground."To the best of my knowledge, oleanane has never been found in a sample this old before.That could mean that we are seeing oleanane being produced by the ancestors of the angiosperms.Stanford News Service has an extensive library of images, some of which may be available to you online. Along with hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur, carbon is a building block of biochemical molecules ranging from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to active substances such as hormones.If the compound is present in relatively small amounts, the crude is almost certainly Cretaceous or younger.If it contains large amounts of the organic substance, on the other hand, its pedigree most likely dates from the post-Cretaceous or Tertiary Age (65 million to 5 million years ago).

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They have masses of 13 and 14 respectively and are referred to as "carbon-13" and "carbon-14." If two atoms have equal numbers of protons but differing numbers of neutrons, one is said to be an "isotope" of the other.

Carbon-13 and carbon-14 are thus isotopes of carbon-12.

Isotopes participate in the same chemical reactions but often at differing rates.

Michael Moldowan, a research professor at Stanford University.

The new dating method is described in the August 5 issue of the journal Science.

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