When atoms are irritated with external magnetic fields, their own magnetic fields go hinky; much like when you hold a magnet next to a compass.
They begin to resonate at varying frequencies and all sorts of valuable information can then be extracted, just like in a classical good cop/bad cop interrogation.
Even an estimate on age.
It’s called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), and once again a few very smart fellows got the Nobel Price for it.
In biochemistry the application works great to study the structure of biopolymers – molecules consistent of chain-gangs of even smaller molecules called monomers.
Some of the better known biopolymers are proteins, starch and DNA, just to give you an idea.
Since amber is an organic material, its gang-chain structures (particularly the exomethylene gang) can be studied and measured through NMRS.
And yes, another Nobel went out for that doozy.
So, let’s run a test, shall we?
Amber from mines in the La Toca and Tamboril area on the north of the island are pegged at being about 40 million years of age (Lambert et al., 1985).
On the other hand, the resonance signature of the biopolymers in amber from the Bayaguana and Cotui area in the east of the island indicated an age of being around 15 million (Van den Bold, 1988).
Here’s the problem:
In order to be able to evaluate the resonance signature of amber, one has to compare it to the resonance signature of a sample were the age is known, as well as an actual resin sample straight from a tree and still sticky.
But how can we know the exact age of the second amber sample?
Also, since the original trees are extinct, the resin used is from a family member only.
Differences may occur as seen in the above test.
The technique in general is promising, but still needs finagling.
A definite classification system by which to interpret the resonance images is still in the works and future results may shed some more light.
But for now we are working with flashlights in a dark room, so to speak.