When is carbon dating used

07 Feb

Levels of carbon-14 become difficult to measure and compare after about 50,000 years (between 8 and 9 half lives; where 1% of the original carbon-14 would remain undecayed).

The question should be whether or not carbon-14 can be used to date any artifacts at all? There are a few categories of artifacts that can be dated using carbon-14; however, they cannot be more 50,000 years old.

"Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.

We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].

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Libby of the University of Chicago in immediate post-WW2 years.

It is produced in the upper atmosphere by radiation from the sun.

(Specifically, neutrons hit nitrogen-14 atoms and transmute them to carbon.) Land plants, such as trees, get their carbon from carbon dioxide in the air. The same is true of any creature that gets its carbon by eating such plants. Suppose such a creature dies, and the body is preserved.

Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in 1960.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contains a constant amount of carbon-14, and as long as an organism is living, the amount of carbon-14 inside it is the same as the atmosphere.