Validity of carbon 14 dating
But carbon-14 is slightly radioactive: it will spontaneously decay into nitrogen-14 by emitting an anti-neutrino and an electron, with a half-life of 5730 years.The theory behind radiocarbon dating is as follows: Why doesn't the carbon-14 in the air decay along with terrestrial carbon? The trick is that radioactive carbon-14 is continually replenished in a complex reaction that involves high-energy cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere.At least to the uninitiated, carbon dating is generally assumed to be a sure-fire way to predict the age of any organism that once lived on our planet.Without understanding the mechanics of it, we put our blind faith in the words of scientists, who assure us that carbon dating is a reliable method of determining the ages of almost everything around us.In this process, nitrogen-14 (7 protons and 7 neutrons) gains a neutron and loses a proton, producing carbon-14 (6 protons and 8 neutrons).The proportion of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere therefore remains relatively stable at about 1.5 parts per billion.
This half-life is very constant and will continue at the same rate forever.Since the universe is estimated to be millions of years old, it was assumed that this equilibrium had already been reached.However, in the 1960s, the growth rate was found to be significantly higher than the decay rate; almost a third in fact.Most concerning, though, is when the carbon dating directly opposes or contradicts other estimates.
At this point, the carbon dating data is simply disregarded.This indicated that equilibrium had not in fact been reached, throwing off scientists’ assumptions about carbon dating. Sometimes carbon dating will agree with other evolutionary methods of age estimation, which is great.