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Quote: The C-14 within an organism is continually decaying into stable carbon isotopes, but since the organism is absorbing more C-14 during its life, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 remains about the same as the ratio in the atmosphere. When the organism dies, the ratio of C-14 within its carcass begins to gradually decrease. The rate of decrease is 1/2 the quantity at death every 5,730 years. That is the half-life of C-14
I have a friend who is highly knowledgable in physics and science subjects. He knows quite a bit more than me, well retains more anyway, and anytime we get into a discussion about dates of things in history he always claims that the dates they give are bullshit. He has numerous times said that radiocarbon dating isn't accurate at all. Yet he can explain quantum physics in great detail, his opinion in scientific matters such as these is usually never far off. But I have always wondered about his claims of the inaccuracy of radiocarbon dating.
From my point of view, it seems if the samples are professionally collected and processed then the date is fairly accurate in most cases. Does anyone here also claim radiocarbon dating is unreliable or otherwise regularly inaccurate? Or do most of you think the dates scientists come up with using this method are right?
-------------------- Think for yourself. Question authority.
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You can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool all the people all the time.
First of all, it should be pointed out that carbon-14 specifically is only used for things suspected to be within a certain date range (at least several thousand, less than 50,000 years). There are other isotopes that are used similarly that are more accurate over different date ranges due to their different decay rates. It's easier to just say "carbon dating" though.
As I understand things, when used properly carbon dating has been shown to be fairly accurate and coincides well most of the time with other evidence. There are cases, however, that such things seem to be way off. One such instance (which if your friend is a physics geek he's likely heard mention of) is that there have been galaxies (maybe some other large space body, I forget the details) that have been tested by similar methods and have repeatedly shown themselves to be older than the known age of the universe. Now that's generally accepted as proof that our estimates are off on one or both claimed ages, but nobody can point to why that is. There are all sorts of ways that we've determined the age of the universe, and the evidence has built up enough that we're fairly sure of it, which makes most people assume that the isotope dating method was wrong.
I haven't researched that too much, but my bet would be on some other fault rather than the idea of the isotope dating system itself. There's so much that we assume about the early universe without adequate proof that such results no doubt rely on a lot of suspected, not well proven beliefs, such as how much of the given isotope there was to begin with.
Generally speaking, such things have proven themselves to be accurate as best we can tell, or they'd have been tossed out by the scientific community long ago. The nature of science is that the cutting edge is always unstable and uncertain, but once something has been around for awhile it's proven itself well enough to be trusted. Occasionally theories and laws will be updated to take into account modern findings that improve their accuracy and let them work under more extreme conditions, such as classical physics being expanded by relativity on one side and quantum on the other, but very, very rarely (I can't think of any) are long standing scientifically-accepted ideas tossed out altogether.
You should ask your friend specifically why, then post it here
First thing that came to my mind while reading this, is that you can only carbon date something that was living. So when people carbon date a gold artifact for instance, they have to date the organic material near it.
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