How reliable is carbon 14 dating

“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.

(Carbon dating is already limited in scope because older artifacts have to be dated using other methods.

Nor can it tell if a much older spearhead was attached to a brand-new shaft.

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.

Second, radiocarbon dating becomes more difficult, and less accurate, as the sample gets older.

The bodies of living things generally have concentrations of the isotope carbon-14, also known as radiocarbon, identical to concentrations in the atmosphere.

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