Carbon dating age of the earth

How old are your rocks?

Because of the short length of the carbon half-life, carbon dating is only accurate for items that are thousands to tens of thousands of years old. Most rocks of interest are much older than this. Geologists must therefore use elements with longer half-lives. For instance, potassium decaying to argon has a half-life of 1.

Geologists measure the abundance of these radioisotopes instead to date rocks. But it wasn't until the late s -- when Scottish geologist James Hutton, who observed sediments building up on the landscape, set out to show that rocks were time clocks -- that serious scientific interest in geological age began.

Before then, the Bible had provided the only estimate for the age of the world: Hutton's theories were short on evidence at first, but by most scientists concurred that Noah's ark was more allegory than reality as they documented geological layering. Using fossils as guides, they began to piece together a crude history of Earth, but it was an imperfect history.

After all, the ever-changing Earth rarely left a complete geological record. The age of the planet, though, was important to Charles Darwin and other evolutionary theorists: The biological evidence they were collecting showed that nature needed vastly more time than previously thought to sculpt the world.

How do geologists use carbon dating to find the age of rocks?

The resulting atom, or daughter product, is 14 N which has the same atomic number, but contains one more proton than the parent product. A half-life works the same way in any type of decay. In the case of 14 C, every 5, years half of the original 14 C decays into nitrogen. Eventually, there is too little 14 C left in a sample to accurately measure without contamination. Theoretically, radiocarbon techniques have the ability to date samples to around 75, years, but the working threshold of reliable dating is around 50, years. Samples significantly older than this have very little or even no measurable 14 C left.


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In order to function properly, natural clocks need an irreversible process that occurs at a constant and known rate. Nuclear decay has a constant rate of decay, but as it turns out, the formation of 14 C in the atmosphere is not always constant. However, cross-checking techniques such as tree ring dating and coral analysis, 14 C has been reliably calibrated to tens of thousands of years.

The newest limit using cross-checking methods is around 26, years Dotinga Carbon isotopes are generally measured through the use of a machine called the accelerated mass spectrometer. A small portion of the sample is put into the machine which then vaporizes it.

The Age of the Earth - Radiocarbom Dating as a Current Scientific Clock: Jonathan Ring

Taking advantage of the distinct mass of individual isotopes, the machine distinguishes the 14 C from all of the other atoms and molecules present and is able to count the individual atoms. Charcoal, cloth, bone, or any other material that contains organic carbon can be dated using an accelerated mass spectrometer.

In conjunction with other creationist organizations, the Institute for Creation Research has assembled a team of researchers to challenge existing notions about the age of the Earth. The RATE team Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth have studied a variety of subjects pertaining to the age of the Earth including radiocarbon dating. In the traditional model of science, radiocarbon has little to do with the age of the Earth, since its lifespan is so short. However, RATE is attempting to fit all radiometric dating into a young earth model.

The RATE research in the area of radiocarbon has focused on the "blank" sample date.


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  6. According to the science behind radiocarbon dating, very old samples should have no measurable 14 C left. However, conventional scientific research projects, as well as RATE research on coal beds and diamonds, have found samples which should no longer have any 14 C but actually contain very small amounts of it. Since the accelerated mass spectrometer can detect 14 C to a higher precision than what was found in the samples, the 14 C is thought to exist because of some sort of unexplained phenomenon or contamination.

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    Therefore, the RATE team has identified a valid anomaly in radiocarbon research which deserves further research. Before proposing their alternate theory about the residual 14 C found in very old samples, the Rate team first discusses the possibility of contamination. Besides the cosmic rays creating 14 C in the atmosphere, other ways to create 14 C have been identified.