Carbon dating explained for kids

So it was expected that most deposits such as coal, gas, petrified trees, etc. In fact, of 15,000 dates in the journal to 1968, only three were classed ‘un-dateable’—most were of the sort which should have been in this category. [Editor’s note: The graph below was reproduced from a sketch in the original magazine.This is especially remarkable with samples of coal and gas supposedly produced in the carboniferous 100 million years ago! Note that the data presented does not necessarily endorse a particular age for the Earth, but reveals a pattern We see, then, that far from being an embarrassment to the creationist who believes in a young Earth, the radiocarbon method of dating—when fully understood in accordance with modern atmospheric data—gives powerful support to his position.The unstable carbon-14 gradually decays to carbon-12 at a steady rate. Scientists measure the ratio of carbon isotopes to be able to estimate how far back in time a biological sample was active or alive.This plot shows the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere as measured in New Zealand (red) and Austria (green), representing the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, respectively.As soon as it dies, however, the C ratio gets smaller.

Consider this—if a specimen is older than 50,000 years, it has been calculated, it would have such a small amount of C that for practical purposes it would show an ‘infinite’ radiocarbon age. Readers are referred to this article for other interesting conclusions about these dates.

Aboveground nuclear testing almost doubled the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. The black arrow shows when the Partial Test Ban Treaty was enacted that banned aboveground nuclear tests. A special kind of radiocarbon dating: Bomb radiocarbon dating.

As we mentioned above, the carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in the atmosphere remains nearly constant.

Obviously this only works for things which once contained carbon—it can’t be used to date rocks and minerals, for example. We obviously need to know this to be able to work out at what point the ‘clock’ began to tick.

We’ve seen that it would have been the same as in the atmosphere at the time the specimen died. Do scientists assume that it was the same as it is now? It is well known that the industrial revolution, with its burning of huge masses of coal, etc.

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