Accuracy of carbon dating


13-Sep-2016 10:59

Question: "Is carbon dating a reliable method for determining the age of things?

" Answer: Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, like any other laboratory testing technique, can be extremely reliable, so long as all of the variables involved are controlled and understood.

If the spear head is dated using animal bones nearby, the accuracy of the results is entirely dependent on the assumed link between the spear head and the animal.

This makes the results subject to the researchers’ assumptions about those objects.

Due to all these factors, it’s common for carbon dating results of a particular sample, or even a group of samples, to be rejected for the sole reason that they don’t align with the “expected” results.

That’s not unusual in science, so far as it goes, but the relationship between assumptions and interpretations must be kept in mind. At worst, it can make carbon dating circular and self-confirming, though there are other means of dating that can reduce this risk.

Tiny variations within a particular sample become significant enough to skew results to the point of absurdity.

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Carbon dating therefore relies on enrichment and enhancement techniques to make smaller quantities easier to detect, but such enhancement can also skew the test results. As a result, carbon dating is only plausible for objects less than about 40,000 years old.

Likewise, different living things absorb or reject carbon-14 at different rates.



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