dating an occasional pot smoker - How far back can carbon dating go


The field of radiocarbon dating has become a technical one far removed from the naive simplicity which characterized its initial introduction by Libby in the late 1940's.

The half life of carbon-14 is about 5,700 years, so if we measure the proportion of C-14 in a sample and discover it's half a part per trillion, i.e.

half the original level, we know the sample is around one half life or 5,700 years old.

Radiocarbon dating, which is also known as carbon-14 dating, is one widely used radiometric dating scheme to determine dates of ancient artifacts.

In discussions of the age of the earth and the antiquity of the human race, creationists often assail perceived weaknesses in radiocarbon dating. Morris, for instance, wrote, "Despite its high popularity, [radiocarbon dating] involves a number of doubtful assumptions, some of which are sufficiently serious to make its results for all ages exceeding about 2000 or 3000 years, in serious need of revision." [Morris2000, pg. Radiocarbon dating is based on the fact that the interaction of cosmic rays from outer space with nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere produces an unstable isotope of carbon, namely radiocarbon.

MYTH #2 Radiocarbon dating has established the date of some organic materials (e.g., some peat deposits) to be well in excess of 50,000 years, thus rendering a recent creation (6 to 10 thousand years ago) impossible.