Carbon dating and reliability

If an archaeologist wanted to date a dead tree to see when humans used it to build tools, their readings would be significantly thrown off.This is because radiocarbon dating gives the date when the tree ceased its intake of Carbon-14—not when it was being used for weapons and other instruments!

Cosmic rays and changes in Earth’s climate can cause irregularities in the amount of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere.Humans began making an impact during the Industrial Revolution.The isotope decreased by a small fraction due to the combustion of fossil fuels, among other factors.However, the quantity of Carbon-14 was nearly doubled in the ’50s and ’60s because of the atomic bomb testings in those decades.The answer to the problem of fluctuating amounts of this important isotope is calibration.

While an uncalibrated reading may be off by a factor of 10%-20%, calibration severely reduces that value.They risk seriously altering the result of the test.The “Old Wood Problem” is the last flaw of radiocarbon dating that will be elaborated upon here.And that's what the American physical chemist Willard Libby won the Nobel Prize for when he discovered radiocarbon dating in the late 1940s.It's based on the very simple principle that radioactive isotopes decay at a steady, predictable rate.In fact, it has fluctuated a great deal over the years.