Carbon dating questions and answers

Answers to Creationist Attacks on Carbon Dating | NCSE

carbon dating questions and answers

Our main Q&A (FAQ) Page Radiometric Dating Questions and Answers Key articles How accurate is Carbon (and other radiometric) dating? (From The. (b) Describe what is meant by the term, “half life of a radioactive nuclide”. The time taken for half the (number of) radioactive nuclei / atoms to decay. OR the time. Archaeologists use the exponential, radioactive decay of carbon 14 to estimate the death dates We can use a formula for carbon 14 dating to find the answer.

Kieth and Anderson show considerable evidence that the mussels acquired much of their carbon from the limestone of the waters they lived in and from some very old humus as well. Carbon from these sources is very low in C because these sources are so old and have not been mixed with fresh carbon from - page 24 - the air.

Thus, a freshly killed mussel has far less C than a freshly killed something else, which is why the C dating method makes freshwater mussels seem older than they really are. When dating wood there is no such problem because wood gets its carbon straight from the air, complete with a full dose of C The creationists who quote Kieth and Anderson never tell you this, however. A sample that is more than fifty thousand years old shouldn't have any measurable C Coal, oil, and natural gas are supposed to be millions of years old; yet creationists say that some of them contain measurable amounts of C, enough to give them C ages in the tens of thousands of years.

How do you explain this? Radiocarbon dating doesn't work well on objects much older than twenty thousand years, because such objects have so little C left that their beta radiation is swamped out by the background radiation of cosmic rays and potassium K decay. Younger objects can easily be dated, because they still emit plenty of beta radiation, enough to be measured after the background radiation has been subtracted out of the total beta radiation.

However, in either case, the background beta radiation has to be compensated for, and, in the older objects, the amount of C they have left is less than the margin of error in measuring background radiation.

As Hurley points out: Without rather special developmental work, it is not generally practicable to measure ages in excess of about twenty thousand years, because the radioactivity of the carbon becomes so slight that it is difficult to get an accurate measurement above background radiation.

K decay also forms plenty of beta radiation. Stearns, Carroll, and Clark point out that ". This radiation cannot be totally eliminated from the laboratory, so one could probably get a "radiocarbon" date of fifty thousand years from a pure carbon-free piece of tin. However, you now know why this fact doesn't at all invalidate radiocarbon dates of objects younger than twenty thousand years and is certainly no evidence for the notion that coals and oils might be no older than fifty thousand years.

Creationists such as Cook claim that cosmic radiation is now forming C in the atmosphere about one and one-third times faster than it is decaying. If we extrapolate backwards in time with the proper equations, we find that the earlier the historical period, the less C the atmosphere had. If we extrapolate - page 25 - as far back as ten thousand years ago, we find the atmosphere would not have had any C in it at all.

carbon dating questions and answers

If they are right, this means all C ages greater than two or three thousand years need to be lowered drastically and that the earth can be no older than ten thousand years. Yes, Cook is right that C is forming today faster than it's decaying. However, the amount of C has not been rising steadily as Cook maintains; instead, it has fluctuated up and down over the past ten thousand years.

How do we know this? From radiocarbon dates taken from bristlecone pines. There are two ways of dating wood from bristlecone pines: Since the tree ring counts have reliably dated some specimens of wood all the way back to BC, one can check out the C dates against the tree-ring-count dates. Admittedly, this old wood comes from trees that have been dead for hundreds of years, but you don't have to have an 8,year-old bristlecone pine tree alive today to validly determine that sort of date.

Carbon 14 Dating - Math Central

It is easy to correlate the inner rings of a younger living tree with the outer rings of an older dead tree. The correlation is possible because, in the Southwest region of the United States, the widths of tree rings vary from year to year with the rainfall, and trees all over the Southwest have the same pattern of variations.

When experts compare the tree-ring dates with the C dates, they find that radiocarbon ages before BC are really too young—not too old as Cook maintains. For example, pieces of wood that date at about BC by tree-ring counts date at only BC by regular C dating and BC by Cook's creationist revision of C dating as we see in the article, "Dating, Relative and Absolute," in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

So, despite creationist claims, C before three thousand years ago was decaying faster than it was being formed and C dating errs on the side of making objects from before BC look too young, not too old. But don't trees sometimes produce more than one growth ring per year? Wouldn't that spoil the tree-ring count? If anything, the tree-ring sequence suffers far more from missing rings than from double rings.

This means that the tree-ring dates would be slightly too young, not too old. Of course, some species of tree tend to produce two or more growth rings per year. But other species produce scarcely any extra rings.

Most of the tree-ring sequence is based on the bristlecone pine. This tree rarely produces even a trace of an extra ring; on the contrary, a typical bristlecone pine has up to 5 percent of its rings missing.

Concerning the sequence of rings derived from the bristlecone pine, Ferguson says: In the growth-ring analyses of approximately one thousand trees in the White Mountains, we have, in fact, found no more than three or four occurrences of even incipient multiple growth layers. Hence at least some of the missing rings can be found. Even so, the missing rings are a far more serious problem than any double rings. Other species of trees corroborate the work that Ferguson did with bristlecone pines.

Before his work, the tree-ring sequence of the sequoias had been worked out back to BC. The archaeological ring sequence had been worked out back to 59 BC. The limber pine sequence had been worked out back to 25 BC. The radiocarbon dates and tree-ring dates of these other trees agree with those Ferguson got from the bristlecone pine. But even if he had had no other trees with which to work except the bristlecone pines, that evidence alone would have allowed him to determine the tree-ring chronology back to BC.

See Renfrew for more details. So, creationists who complain about double rings in their attempts to disprove C dating are actually grasping at straws. If the Flood of Noah occurred around BC, as some creationists claim, then all the bristlecone pines would have to be less than five thousand years old. This would mean that eighty-two hundred years worth of tree rings had to form in five thousand years, which would mean that one-third of all the bristlecone pine rings would have to be extra rings.

Creationists are forced into accepting such outlandish conclusions as these in order to jam the facts of nature into the time frame upon which their "scientific" creation model is based. Barnes has claimed that the earth's magnetic field is decaying exponentially with a half-life of fourteen hundred years. Not only does he consider this proof that the earth can be no older than ten thousand years but he also points out that a greater magnetic strength in the past would reduce C dates.

Now if the magnetic field several thousand years ago was indeed many times stronger than it is today, there would have been less cosmic radiation entering the atmosphere back then and less C would have been produced. Therefore, any C dates taken from objects of that time period would be too high.

Let's look at the periodic table over here.

carbon dating questions and answers

So carbon by definition has six protons, but the typical isotope, the most common isotope of carbon is carbon So carbon is the most common. So most of the carbon in your body is carbon But what's interesting is that a small fraction of carbon forms, and then this carbon can then also combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. And then that carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the rest of the atmosphere, into our oceans.

It can be fixed by plants. When people talk about carbon fixation, they're really talking about using mainly light energy from the sun to take gaseous carbon and turn it into actual kind of organic tissue. And so this carbon, it's constantly being formed. It makes its way into oceans-- it's already in the air, but it completely mixes through the whole atmosphere-- and the air.

And then it makes its way into plants. And plants are really just made out of that fixed carbon, that carbon that was taken in gaseous form and put into, I guess you could say, into kind of a solid form, put it into a living form.

That's what wood pretty much is. It gets put into plants, and then it gets put into the things that eat the plants. So that could be us. Now why is this even interesting? I've just explained a mechanism where some of our body, even though carbon is the most common isotope, some of our body, while we're living, gets made up of this carbon thing.

Well, the interesting thing is the only time you can take in this carbon is while you're alive, while you're eating new things. Because as soon as you die and you get buried under the ground, there's no way for the carbon to become part of your tissue anymore because you're not eating anything with new carbon And what's interesting here is once you die, you're not going to get any new carbon And that carbon that you did have at you're death is going to decay via beta decay-- and we learned about this-- back into nitrogen So kind of this process reverses.

So it'll decay back into nitrogen, and in beta decay you emit an electron and an electron anti-neutrino. I won't go into the details of that.

But essentially what you have happening here is you have one of the neutrons is turning into a proton and emitting this stuff in the process. Now why is this interesting? So I just said while you're living you have kind of straight-up carbon And carbon is constantly doing this decay thing. But what's interesting is as soon as you die and you're not ingesting anymore plants, or breathing from the atmosphere if you are a plant, or fixing from the atmosphere.

And this even applies to plants. Once a plant dies, it's no longer taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into new tissue.

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The carbon in that tissue gets frozen. And this carbon does this decay at a specific rate. And then you can use that rate to actually determine how long ago that thing must've died. So the rate at which this happens, so the rate of carbon decay, is essentially half disappears, half gone, in roughly 5, years.

And this is actually called a half life.

Carbon 14 dating 2

And we talk about in other videos. This is called a half life. And I want to be clear here. You don't know which half of it's gone. It's a probabilistic thing. You can't just say all the carbon's on the left are going to decay and all the carbon's on the right aren't going to decay in that 5, years. So over the course of 5, years, roughly half of them will have decayed.

BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Carbon dating

Now why is that interesting? Well, if you know that all living things have a certain proportion of carbon in their tissue, as kind of part of what makes them up, and then if you were to find some bone-- let's just say find some bone right here that you dig it up on some type of archaeology dig. And you say, hey, that bone has one half the carbon of all the living things that you see right now. It would be a pretty reasonable estimate to say, well, that thing must be 5, years old.

Even better, maybe you dig a little deeper, and you find another bone. Maybe a couple of feet even deeper. So how old is this? And then after another half life, half of that also turns into a nitrogen And so this would involve two half lives, which is the same thing as 2 times 5, years.