Problems with radiocarbon dating methods
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.As with any radioactive isotope, carbon-14 decays over time.The half-life of carbon 14 is approximate 5,730 years.Archaeologists vehemently disagree over the effects changing climate and competition from recently arriving humans had on the Neanderthals' demise.
The carbon-14 dioxide is utilized by plants in the same way normal carbon dioxide is.
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.
As scientists will often claim something to be millions or billions of years old (ages that do not conform to the Biblical account of the age of the earth), Christians are often left wondering about the accuracy of the carbon-14 method.
The truth is, carbon-14 dating (or radiocarbon dating, as its also called) is not a precise dating method in many cases, due to faulty assumptions and other limitations on this method.
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Marine records, such as corals, have been used to push farther back in time, but these are less robust because levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and the ocean are not identical and tend shift with changes in ocean circulation.