Is carbon dating really reliable

Complicating things further, the Earth's concentration of carbon-14 changes based on a variety of factors.As with any scientific testing, contamination can drastically impact the results of tests. Inconsistent results are often discarded under the claim of contamination.This is not necessarily unusual in science, but one must keep in mind how assumptions and interpretations are related.

Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, can be helpful in determining the relative age of an object, but has many limitations.

The testing for carbon dating relies on many factors and should be used in conjunction with other methods of dating materials.

C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).

The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive, though it is not dangerous.

So, an old spear can be tested at the wooden shaft, but not the sharp stone head.

The test will identify about how long ago the wood was cut from a living tree, but cannot tell when it was made into a spear or when the stone head was attached.­ ­As soon as a living organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon.The ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 at the moment of death is the same as every other living thing, but the carbon-14 decays and is not replaced.Another complicating factor is that carbon dating is based on the loss of carbon-14.So obtaining an accurate age depends on the assumption of how much carbon-14 was in the atmosphere at the time the organism died.Also, the difficulty of using carbon dating increases as objects grow older.

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