Radiocarbon dating is one of the best known archaeological dating techniques available to scientists, and the many people in the general public have at least heard of it. But there are many misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is. Radiocarbon dating was invented in the s by the American chemist Willard F. Libby and a few of his students at the University of Chicago: in , he won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the invention. It was the first absolute scientific method ever invented: that is to say, the technique was the first to allow a researcher to determine how long ago an organic object died, whether it is in context or not.
Radiocarbon Dating: A Closer Look At Its Main Flaws
How radiocarbon dating helps archaeologists date objects and sites, with carbon
However, as SciShow points out in a recent episode, the excessive use of fossil fuels is making that method less reliable. Carbon dating, also called radiocarbon or C dating, involves analyzing the ratio of two isotopes of carbon: C a radioactive form of carbon that decays over time and C a more stable form. By analyzing that ratio in a given object compared to a living organism, archaeologists, paleontologists, and other scientists can get a pretty clear idea of how old that first object is. However, as more and more fossil fuels are burned, more carbon dioxide is released into the environment. In turn, this releases more of another isotope, called C, which changes the ratio of carbon isotopes in the atmosphere and skews the carbon dating analysis.
Carbon dating accuracy called into question after major flaw discovery
The carbon clock is getting reset. Climate records from a Japanese lake are set to improve the accuracy of the dating technique, which could help to shed light on archaeological mysteries such as why Neanderthals became extinct. Carbon dating is used to work out the age of organic material — in effect, any living thing.
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