How accurate is radiocarbon dating

Since the 1940s, scientists have used carbon dating to determine the age of fossils, identify vintages of wine and whiskey, and explore other organic artifacts like wood and ivory.

The technique involves comparing the level of one kind of carbon atom—one that decays over time—with the level of another, more stable kind of carbon atom.

The age they came back with was only a few thousand years old. And kept their theory that dinosaurs lived "millions of years ago" instead. They then use potassium argon, or other methods, and date the fossils again.

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The approach was a sensation when it was introduced.

The chemist who developed carbon dating, Willard Libby, won the Nobel Prize for his work.

Several factors affect radiocarbon test results, not all of which are easy to control objectively.

For this reason, it’s preferable to date objects using multiple methods, rather than relying on one single test.

Radiocarbon dating can’t tell the difference between wood that was cut and immediately used for the spear, and wood that was cut years before being re-used for that purpose.

Nor can it tell if a much older spearhead was attached to a brand-new shaft.For example, a steel spearhead cannot be carbon dated, so archaeologists might perform testing on the wooden shaft it was attached to.This provides good information, but it only indicates how long ago that piece of wood was cut from a living tree.“Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking in so many fields of human endeavour,” one of Libby's colleagues wrote at the time, according to the Nobel Foundation.Today, carbon dating is used so widely as to be taken for granted.Here is one example of an isochron, based on measurements of basaltic meteorites (in this case the resulting date is 4.4 billion years) [Basaltic1981, pg. Skeptics of old-earth geology make great hay of these examples.

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