Carbon 14 age dating


The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom determines the element. For example, all carbon atoms have 6 protons, all atoms of nitrogen have 7 protons, and all oxygen atoms have 8 protons. The number of neutrons in the nucleus can vary in any given type of atom. So, a carbon atom might have six neutrons, or seven, or possibly eight—but it would always have six protons. An “isotope” is any of several different forms of an element, each having different numbers of neutrons. The illustration below shows the three isotopes of carbon.

Carbon Dating - The Controversy
Carbon dating is controversial for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's predicated upon a set of questionable assumptions. We have to assume, for example, that the rate of decay (that is, a 5,730 year half-life) has remained constant throughout the unobservable past. However, there is strong evidence which suggests that radioactive decay may have been greatly accelerated in the unobservable past. 1 We must also assume that the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the atmosphere has remained constant throughout the unobservable past (so we can know what the ratio was at the time of the specimen's death). And yet we know that "radiocarbon is forming 28-37% faster than it is decaying," 2 which means it hasn't yet reached equilibrium, which means the ratio is higher today than it was in the unobservable past. We also know that the ratio decreased during the industrial revolution due to the dramatic increase of CO 2 produced by factories. This man-made fluctuation wasn't a natural occurrence, but it demonstrates the fact that fluctuation is possible and that a period of natural upheaval upon the earth could greatly affect the ratio. Volcanoes spew out CO 2 which could just as effectively decrease the ratio. Specimens which lived and died during a period of intense volcanism would appear older than they really are if they were dated using this technique. The ratio can further be affected by C-14 production rates in the atmosphere, which in turn is affected by the amount of cosmic rays penetrating the earth's atmosphere. The amount of cosmic rays penetrating the earth's atmosphere is itself affected by things like the earth's magnetic field which deflects cosmic rays. Precise measurements taken over the last 140 years have shown a steady decay in the strength of the earth's magnetic field. This means there's been a steady increase in radiocarbon production (which would increase the ratio).

And finally, this dating scheme is controversial because the dates derived are often wildly inconsistent. For example, "One part of Dima [a famous baby mammoth discovered in 1977] was 40,000 RCY [Radiocarbon Years], another was 26,000 RCY, and 'wood found immediately around the carcass' was 9,000-10,000 RCY." (Walt Brown, In the Beginning, 2001, p. 176)


Carbon 14 age dating

Carbon 14 age dating



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