We were all taught in school that carbon dating is this universal platform for dating objects from the past. It was considered a miracle science for uncovering lost history and learning more about it. But many don’t realize that there are a lot of misconceptions behind this “miracle science.”
The Science Behind Carbon Dating
The simple run-down version of carbon dating is this: all living things absorb carbon from the atmosphere while they are alive. Once they die, they stop absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. This allows scientists to get an accurate reading on how old a once-living thing was based on how much they absorbed. The keyword is “living.” Many don’t realize that we can only get a reading of carbon from once-living organisms. We can’t get it from rocks or minerals. If any scientists claim they can, well, we’ll take it with a grain of salt.
The Deceptions Behind Carbon Dating
There are many deceptions behind carbon dating, one previously mentioned was that you can get carbon from nonliving materials. Another is that you can date organisms back to millions of years old. The half-life of Carbon-14 is 5,730. This only allows carbon dating to be effective up to about 50,000 years. After this, the carbon has decayed and is no longer retrievable. So next time you read in a textbook that scientists have carbon-dated dinosaur fossils back millions of years, that is most likely yet another deception within the science community. Another piece of information that people within the science community must understand is that it might not be as accurate in general as once thought. At the rapid rate of fossil fuels being burned into the atmosphere, it is skewing these carbon dating readings. This is known as the Suess Effect, where more Carbon-12 is being added to these once-living organisms, causing the Carbon-14 ratio to be off and not accurate to its time.
Many scientists theorize that carbon dating will eventually become obsolete, since it isn’t as accurate as once thought. Due to increased fossil fuel burning increasing Carbon-12 in the atmosphere and the limitation behind the science itself. Regardless of what happens to this kind of dating, scientists are constantly coming up with new ways of dating with the technology we have today. One can only imagine what we will be capable of in a few years from now!