Can carbon dating be wrong

Posted by / 20-Oct-2015 16:50

Can carbon dating be wrong

Of course, there are many problems with such dating methods, such as parent or daughter substances entering or leaving the rock, as well as daughter product being present at the beginning.Here I want to concentrate on another source of error, namely, processes that take place within magma chambers.By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.But that assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock.Various geologic, atmospheric and solar processes can influence atmospheric carbon-14 levels.Since the 1960s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.The clock was initially calibrated by dating objects of known age such as Egyptian mummies and bread from Pompeii; work that won Willard Libby the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.But even he “realized that there probably would be variation”, says Christopher Bronk Ramsey, a geochronologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the latest work, published today in Science.

Bronk Ramsey’s team aimed to fill this gap by using sediment from bed of Lake Suigetsu, west of Tokyo.As a rule, carbon dates are younger than calendar dates: a bone carbon-dated to 10,000 years is around 11,000 years old, and 20,000 carbon years roughly equates to 24,000 calendar years.The problem, says Bronk Ramsey, is that tree rings provide a direct record that only goes as far back as about 14,000 years.“If you’re trying to look at archaeological sites at the order of 30,000 or 40,000 years ago, the ages may shift by only a few hundred years but that may be significant in putting them before or after changes in climate,” he says.Take the extinction of Neanderthals, which occurred in western Europe less than 30,000 years ago.

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Two distinct sediment layers have formed in the lake every summer and winter over tens of thousands of years.

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