Is carbon dating accurate

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Is Carbon Dating Accurate?

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It is very difficult for scientists to know how much carbon would have originally been present; one of the ways in which they have tried to overcome this difficulty was through using carbon equilibrium.

Equilibrium is the name given to the point when the rate of carbon production and carbon decay are equal. By measuring the rate of production and of decay both eminently quantifiable , scientists were able to estimate that carbon in the atmosphere would go from zero to equilibrium in 30, — 50, years.


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Since the universe is estimated to be millions of years old, it was assumed that this equilibrium had already been reached. However, in the s, the growth rate was found to be significantly higher than the decay rate; almost a third in fact. They attempted to account for this by setting as a standard year for the ratio of C to C, and measuring subsequent findings against that.

In short, the answer is… sometimes. Sometimes carbon dating will agree with other evolutionary methods of age estimation, which is great. Most concerning, though, is when the carbon dating directly opposes or contradicts other estimates. At this point, the carbon dating data is simply disregarded. It has been summed up most succinctly in the words of American neuroscience Professor Bruce Brew: If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in a footnote. And if it is completely out of date, we just drop it. For example, recently science teams at the British Antarctic Survey and Reading University unearthed the discovery that samples of moss could be brought back to life after being frozen in ice.

That carbon dating deemed the moss to have been frozen for over 1, years. Now, if this carbon dating agrees with other evolutionary methods of determining age, the team could have a real discovery on their hands.

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Taken alone, however, the carbon dating is unreliable at best, and at worst, downright inaccurate. Do you like or dislike what you have read? To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content.

Thanks to Fossil Fuels, Carbon Dating Is in Jeopardy. One Scientist May Have an Easy Fix

I hope this helps your understanding of carbon dating. If you have any more questions about it don't hesitate to write.


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I just listened to a series of lectures on archaeology put out by John Hopkins Univ. The lecturer talked at length about how inaccurate C14 Dating is as 'corrected' by dendrochronology. The methodology is quite accurate, but dendrochronology supposedly shows that the C14 dates go off because of changes in the equilibrium over time, and that the older the dates the larger the error.

Despite this she continually uses the c14 dates to create 'absolute' chronologies. She says this is ok so long as you take into account the correction factors from dendrochronology. They conveniently forget to mention that the tree ring chronology was arranged by C14 dating. The scientists who were trying to build the chronology found the tree rings so ambiguous that they could not decide which rings matched which using the bristlecone pine.

How reliable is radiocarbon dating?

So they tested some of the ring sequences by C14 to put the sequences in the 'right' order. Once they did that they developed the overall sequence. And this big sequence is then used to 'correct' C14 dates. Talk of circular reasoning!!!!