How long does carbon dating go back

With calibrated dates, you might have an error of less than a century. This can be very useful when we look at things that have happened in the last few thousand years, where you have a better idea of events and knowing whether one thing happened before or after another with good precision can be very useful.

Radiocarbon calibration is based on dendrochronology tree-ring dating , which can produce a very precise record going back thousands of years in some places. When the radiocarbon dates are calibrated to the tree-ring dates, you can account for and correct for atmospheric and local variation in carbon which is what causes a lot of the error with radiocarbon dates.

So it is great for making our more-recent studies much more precise. Calibration can't or hasn't been done everywhere, though, and it needs to be fairly local to really help.


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Again I don't know exactly how this all works, but that's my basic understanding of it. And then as 3clipse said, there are plenty of other radiometric dating techniques. The principles are the same as what I described above for radiocarbon, but with other elements that have much longer half-lives. This means that you can in some cases date things up to 2 billion years old. Your error range is much greater, but when you are looking at something that is 2 million years old, you can accept being off by 50, years.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy. Carbon has a half-life of 5, years so decays fairly quickly to unusable proportions. We also need to calibrate how much carbon it had to begin with.

How Accurate is Carbon Dating?

To do that we need records of how much was being made from nitrogen. To do that we need samples of atmospheric gas, from ice cores or solar activity from tree rings, etc. If we're a bit depleted in nitrogen, then we know it's become carbon We can get reasonable accuracy to 50, years, better accuracy more recently. This calibration is what limits the accuracy because we know that with a given amount of carbon, it absolutely will decay at a very tightly controlled rate.

Now, on to the next question, who held the stop watch at the Big Bang? Unfortunately, I was not able to attend that event, due to prior schedule conflicts. Originally posted by spoof: Oh, I remember you being there. You were just to hot to be sapient. Originally posted by Hat Monster: Isn't beta decay controlled by the weak force? Originally posted by Chuckles: Yes, it's all coalescing now, unfortunately, it merely seems like a dream. Science cannot tell time. It can set a frame, or a parameter for the occurence of one event or another, but it has only the most recent reference for the age of any matter whatsoever.

We have only arbitrary concepts of the age of matter as we know it. That's, to be as nice as I can, a pile of bullshit tall enough to be an aviation hazard. Originally posted by UserJoe: Also the reason that the neutrino and it's antiparticle interact infrequently. That's right, it's the weak force that governs beta decay. My error, but doesn't detract from the post's content. The technique for carbon dating is being refined to the point it is believed that reasonable accuracy may be achieved back to , years ago. Carbon dating works, btw, by comparing the ratio of C 14 to C The further back you go, the harder it gets to discern that difference accurately.

Now, I'm interested to know what other radio-isotopes we can use to date old stuff. Like old rocks, for instance. Isotopic systems that have been exploited for radiometric dating have half-lives ranging only about 10 years e. Also, I believe potassium-argon is fairly common dating mechanism. Here is wikipedia's page on the topic: Radiometric dating they have a whole slew of dating mechanisms. OK, I'll admit it's a pile of bullshit, however, if you can't date anything with physical evidence even to , years, then no one has any idea how old lots of things are.

I'm not pushing some creationist angle here, they just like to pick nice "round" numbers. No, I'll take scientific observations any day of the week, it's just that so much of science must, as a discipline, base their observations on the painstaking recording of observable physical data. When no observer is present, can we comfortably assume anything about the physical state of the universe at a time when no recorded physical data is available?

To merely observe the physics of atomic structures in the "here and now" and then state that "it's always been like this", seems somewhat presumptive. The statement was that you can't use C dating for accuracy of over , years. However there are lots of other methods for radiometric dating available.


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  6. Physical data like rock layers? Like types of rocks? Like the speed of light? Do you have a testable theory as to why this would not be the case? Science can provide rationale for the dating stated. Doubting simply so you can wag your finger and say "Nuh uh" isn't having an open mind -- it's simply being contrary. Originally posted by zeotherm: Radiometric dating they have a whole slew of dating mechanisms Excellent, thankyou.

    Yes, science bases its theories and concepts around concrete facts. Even if there was some sort of Watcher race that stood in front of me and said that he was alive 10 billion years ago and bore witness to the birth of my planet, I would still insist on evidence. As a scientist, word of mouth means absolute nothing to me. Scientific statements need to be backed up by actual data. Well, I think you are putting the cart before the horse. Forget your miffed dismissal of the current thought on the history of the universe. You postulate that the laws of physics may not be constant.

    The next step, using the scientific method, would be to come up with an experiment that would elicit a recordable change. In this specific case, try to manipulate the environment around a radioactive element to effect a change in the half-life constant. Now take that to the next step, to effect such a change you would need to effect the Weak Force directly within an atom or group of atoms.

    So a revised, and more scientific, of your OP would be: Can the Weak Force within an atom be effected? Are half-life constants truely constant?

    How Does Radiocarbon Dating Work? - Instant Egghead #28

    I have no idea what the answer is off the top of my head, but my intelligent guess says that this topic has already been researched and literature exists on it. It was no doubt an important question when dating first took off. I find ranty non-scientific curt dismissals of theories with this sort of attitude half baked and highly aggravating.

    Want to add to the discussion?

    It's like a little kid turning their nose up their parent cause they think they know better. Originally posted by BuckG: Grrr Very much so. It's even more aggravating when you look at the attitude that it tends to come with: Therefore, I am actually considering more than you are , which makes me better than you mere "scientists".

    Radiocarbon dating - Wikipedia

    I don't care if I have no idea how you could be wrong, I am smarter merely by suggesting you are mistaken. Fair enough, instead of opinionating, we'll just stick with the data from here on out. As it should be. Therefore, I am actually considering more than you are, which makes me better than you mere "scientists".

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    As Hat Monster already pointed out, if these things were only slightly different from what they are now, the universe would be a vastly different place. There was a special on PBS about the universe, particles, strign theory, etc that covered this topic quite well. Basically, by making even a small change in any fundamental particle, the whole puzzle gets tossed out the window.

    A good number of the subatomic particles we know about were calculated mathematically before they were ever discovered via observation.