Carbon 14 dating flawed

Even the use of accelerator mass spectrometry to analyze the relative levels of carbon and radioactive carbon has resulted in flawed determinations.

It is not uncommon for different laboratories to determine quite different ages for the same artifact!

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Both carbon and radioactive carbon are found in every living organism.

While carbon is quite prevalent in these organisms, radioactive carbon is present only in tiny amounts.

What this means is that using carbon dating to date very old samples is really quite impractical given our current level of knowledge and technological capabilities.

While carbon dating continues to be considered by many as a viable way of obtaining authoritative dates for a wide range of artifacts and remains, there is much room for error in the process.

Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).

Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".

Factors as diverse as changes in the earth's magnetic field and changes in the amount of carbon available to organisms in times past could translate into perceivable differences in the carbon ratios in artifacts and remains from ancient times.

Even changes in the atmosphere itself could impact this carbon ratio.

Libby later received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960: (From Taylor, 1987).

Today, there are over 130 radiocarbon dating laboratories around the world producing radiocarbon assays for the scientific community.

When the organism dies that absorption stops and the radioactive carbon begins to break down.

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