Carbon-14 dating essay

This formula allows scientists to know the ratio of the present amount of the radioactive isotope that remains versus the original amount in relation to time. This formula also determines the amount of carbon that would diminish over a given time period. An important fact when using these formulas is that archaeologists and scientists are assuming that the production of radiocarbon in the atmosphere and the carbon and carbon ratio has remained constant over time.

They, as well as subsequent scientists, have used Geiger counters to detect if radioactive carbon is present in a sample. This device is able to detect the beta particles emitted by atoms of carbon as they decay. When these rays hit the Geiger counter, the device clicks indicating that the substance is radioactive.

After, scientists start their process of determining the samples historical age. For example, if scientists wants to know the age ofa piece of wood destroyed by fire, they take the piece of wood and soak it in chemicals to confirm any contamination particles that remain on the artifact are gone prior to it being tested. When this reaction occurs, the burning of the wood leaves very little ash and emits carbon dioxide, which is collected in a purification vacuum system.

Once the gas containing carbon is completely purified, the gas enters a glass Jar, which then enters the carbon counter. This device is comprised ofa ring of Geiger counters inside a casing, and all of this is surrounded by lead or iron bricks to filter out even more radiations from the atmosphere.

The sample is then tested and an electronic panel counts and records the time elapsed as each carbon atom disintegrates. From this, scientists can calculate the approximate age of the sample by manipulating the formulas mentioned previously and calculate the number of years that have elapsed since the sample stopped the intake of carbon and began its half-life decay Poole A second method of radiocarbon dating used is the Liquid Scintillation counting method.


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The Liquid Scintillation counting method converts a sample to carbon dioxide either through ombustion or acid hydrolysis. Once this process finishes, the benzene is driven off and collected under a vacuum to be counted for carbon content utilizing a Liquid Scintillation spectrometer.

Carbon dating Essay | Essay Writing Service A+

This apparatus counts the pulses of light emitted by the benzene compound when it is bombarded with photons and has a high precision in dating. Advancement in technology has led to the third method of radiocarbon dating, which is more precise than the other two methods. This process is accelerator mass spectrometry or AMS. Some scientists question the validity of using 5, years as a half-life since this assumes nuclear half-lives have always been stable.

Moreover, radiocarbon dating assumes that the carbon content of the atmosphere has remained constant over the years and that living things have a constant ratio of C to C in them when alive based on the C content in the atmosphere.

However, it is known that since the s, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has ncreased because of nuclear bombs and reactors. Artifacts from this era would be ated younger than they really are since they have a higher C to C ratio. By the same token, the ratio between carbon and carbon during the industrial era Nould be lower due to the burning of fossil fuels and the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Because of the increased levels of carbon dioxide, it would cause things to appear older than their true age. Fortunately, scientists have been able to adjust their radiocarbon dating results to account for changes in the carbon levels in the atmosphere by taking into account information obtained from tree-ring dating.

This has greatly improved the also impact carbon dating results. Cosmic rays are charged particles, so they can be deflected by magnetic fields. If the magnetic field is strong, the number of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere will be reduced. This in turn affects the amount of C in the atmosphere. At about the same ime, the carbon content of the atmosphere dropped. Today, the radiocarbon dating process considers these variations in magnetic fields when dating artifacts IHedman Lastly, another key assumption in radiocarbon dating is the fraction of C to C was the same for organisms living in the past as it is for organisms living today.

It is known that some living organisms can accumulate more carbon in their bodies than others. This is known as mass fractionation. If scientists did not take this into account, carbon would underestimate the date of materials derived from corn Hedman Despite these limitations, in my opinion, carbon dating is an invaluable tool in helping date artifacts.

Even though it can only date artifacts that are 70, years old or younger, it has enabled archeologists, geologists, and anthropologists to have a better understanding of how and where people lived over time in a large part to the chronological information it provides. Specifically, it helped revise the human timetable when it dated the Ice Age to being s recent as 13, years ago, not 25, years. Radiocarbon dating has also aided in confirming previously established dates.

Some may discredit this dating technique because of some of its assumptions, however, refinements to this carbon dating process and collaboration with other dating techniques, such as dendrochronology, continue to confirm that carbon is still an important yardstick In measuring time and has significantly helped the field of archeology. Challenging an Icon of Evolution. To do this, scientists place the wood in a heavy glass tube and burn it.

When this combustion reaction occurs, the wood breaks down to some ash, carbon dioxide, and water, so the gases released are collected in a purification vacuum system. Once separated from the water, the carbon dioxide gas containing carbon enters a glass jar, which then runs through the carbon counter. This device is comprised of a ring of Geiger counters inside a casing, and completely surrounded by lead or iron bricks to filter out radiations from the atmosphere.

The sample is then tested and an electronic panel counts and records the time elapsed as each carbon atom decays.


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From this, scientists can calculate the approximate age of the sample by manipulating the formulas mentioned previously and determining the number of years that have elapsed since the sample stopped the intake of carbon and began its half-life decay Poole The Liquid Scintillation counting method requires a sample of carbon dioxide created through combustion or acid hydrolysis. Once this process finishes, the benzene is driven off and collected under a vacuum to be counted for carbon content utilizing a Liquid Scintillation spectrometer.

This apparatus counts the pulses of light emitted by the benzene compound when bombarded with photons and has high precision. Advancement in technology has led to the third method of radiocarbon dating, which is more precise than the former two methods: This technique uses multiple stages of acceleration and ionization, as well as several magnets to separate the carbon isotopes from all other atoms and molecules in the sample. A major advantage of AMS is that all carbon atoms in a sample are counted, not just the ones that happen to decay. This makes this method very sensitive and can give accurate dating even if only one milligram of carbon is provided Hedman The limit of carbon detection using AMS happens at a concentration of one carbon atom for every stable carbon atoms.

How Does Carbon Dating Work

This sensitivity is roughly the equivalent of being able to detect a unique grain of sand along a hundred mile-long seashore DeYoung This sensitivity means that artifacts can be analyzed without causing damage to them. It also enables objects with small amounts of carbon, like steel tools, to be analyzed and dated. The only drawback is that AMS machines have an enormous footprint and often take up space in entire buildings; they are only found in about thirty specialized places throughout the world, and it is very expensive to test samples utilizing this method Hedman Radiocarbon dating, as a tool, has helped date artifacts in several recent archaeological discoveries and defines cultures throughout time, labeling the methodology under a specific theoretical school in archaeology.

Various scientists use radiocarbon dating as a device to measure ages of artifacts; consequently, it is categorized under the Culture History theoretical school of thought in archaeology. Culture History archaeologists focus their work on cultural processes and work to determine human behavior. In this field, archaeologists focus on the distribution of artifacts that can define traits, which leads to defining cultures and changes over time. Carbon dating falls under this field because its purpose is to date artifacts, which can then be related to other artifacts and aid in defining a culture or changes in culture over time Urban and Schortman, A recent case where carbon dating has been particularly useful occurred while attempting to date the evidence of human activity in the Americas.

Prior to carbon dating, most scientists believed the last Ice Age ended about 25, years ago Poole In , ancient logs from spruce trees were found under glacial debris near Two Creeks, Wisconsin. Scientists were certain that these trees were crushed by the second Ice Age. Pieces of this wood were sent to Libby for dating. Based on his tests, the last Ice Age had spread across the land as recently as 11, years ago! This meant scientists had to restudy and revise previous dates of other natural events Poole Another example of carbon dating benefits came from evidence of human migration to the New World.

This evidence revolves around the Clovis points, a group of artifacts, found in New Mexico. Clovis points have been found throughout the United States, and at several sites, these artifacts were found with the remains of mammoths. Carbon dating of these Clovis points places them at 11, BCE or 13, years ago after calibration Hedman Using this data, scientists created a Clovis model that suggested that people should not have lived in the Americas prior to 13, years ago.

The Ice Age made travel to the Americas difficult very difficult before this time; however, archaeologists have claimed to discover sites that predate the Clovis points proposing that humans lived in the Americas earlier than most scientists hypothesized they did. As an example, carbon dating of charcoal samples from the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania suggests that the site is over 15, years old.

What is Radiocarbon Dating?

This leads to the belief that people landed in America well before the ice-free corridor opened. In addition, in independent archaeologists confirmed the accuracy of the date of wooden poles and posts from a site in Monte Verde, Chile. Carbon testing suggested the artifacts were 14, to 15, years old. This site also appears to be older than Clovis, which is surprising given the fact that it is 10, miles south of Alaska Hedman As with all discoveries, Radiocarbon dating contains limitations in its measurements that lead people to point out controversies over this technique.

Controversies over atmospheric changes, climate changes, and contamination often arise when discussing C dating. These disputes surround the Meadowcroft site, which is near Canada, where remains of oak and hickory trees were found in the oldest layers. Scientists debate the likeliness of deciduous trees surviving in this area during the time period of the ice age; yet, the excavators counter this argument saying the area was sheltered which made the climate milder.

Meadowcroft skeptics also suggest that the samples might be contaminated since the site is in the heart of coal country. If any of the surrounding materials, which no longer had carbon after decaying mixed with charcoal from the environment, it would dilute the C fraction and results from the dates would yield as too old.

The archaeologists countered this by saying the dates in each layer of excavation were in order of age. As to Monte Verde, a skeptic said the artifacts found were near a stream, negating the reliability of the evidence since the mixture of material could come from a range of different times Hedman These criticisms point out some of the shortcomings of radiocarbon dating on the one hand, and on the other hand, they show the valuable for approximating the chronology of history when used with other dating techniques.

Carbon dating successfully establishes the age of artifacts, however, several drawbacks arise when using this method. First, it can only date objects up to about 70, years ago since the half-life is 5, years Wheatley In addition, some scientists debate the accuracy, specifically, they question the validity of using 5, years as a half-life since this assumes nuclear half-lives have always been stable.

Does Carbon 14 Dating go Beyond Biblical History?

Moreover, radiocarbon dating assumes that the carbon content of the atmosphere has remained constant over time and that living organisms have a constant ratio of C to C based on the C content in the atmosphere. To support this rebuttal, it is known that since the s, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has increased because of nuclear bombs and reactors.

Artifacts from this era would be classified as younger than their true age since the results would yield a higher C to C ratio than if real atmospheric concentrations were considered. Similarly, the ratio between carbon and carbon during the industrial era would be lower due to the burning of fossil fuels and the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide with C Because of the increased levels, it would cause things to appear older than in actuality.

Fortunately, scientists have been able to adjust their radiocarbon dating results to account for changes in the carbon levels in the atmosphere by taking into account information obtained from tree-ring dating, dendrochronology — a separate dating technique using the ring patterns in trees. Pairing these methodologies has greatly improved the accuracy Wheatley Cosmic rays are charged particles, so they can be deflected by magnetic fields. This in turn affects the amount of C in the atmosphere.

At about the same time, the carbon content of the atmosphere dropped. Today, the radiocarbon dating process considers these variations in magnetic fields when dating artifacts Hedman Lastly, another key assumption in radiocarbon dating is the fraction of C to C has stayed constant in the living organisms of the past and those of today.

Some living organisms can accumulate more carbon in their bodies than others can, this phenomenon is known as mass fractionation. If scientists did not take this into account, carbon would underestimate the date of materials derived from corn Hedman Despite these limitations, in my opinion, carbon dating is an invaluable tool in helping date artifacts.

Even though it can only date artifacts that are 70, years old or younger, it has enabled archeologists, geologists, and anthropologists to have a better understanding of how and where people lived over time because of the chronological information this method provides. Specifically, it helped revise the human timetable when evidence proved the Ice Age was as recent as 11, years ago. Radiocarbon dating has also aided in confirming previously established dates.


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Some may discredit this dating technique because of its assumptions, however, refinements to this carbon dating process and collaboration with other dating techniques, such as dendrochronology, confirms that carbon is still an important yardstick in measuring time. By continually improving the technique and accuracy, archaeologists have and will continue to use radiocarbon dating to redefine past cultures and create a chronological history of the human world.

Challenging an Icon of Evolution: Questioning the Age of Earth. The Age of Everything: How Science Explores the Past. University of Chicago P, Radioactivity Introduction and History. Poole, Lynn, and Gary Poole. Urban, Patricia, and Schortman, Edward. Archaeological Theory In Practice.

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