How accurate is radioactive dating of materials

In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.It has become increasingly clear that these radiometric dating techniques agree with each other and as a whole, present a coherent picture in which the Earth was created a very long time ago.Further evidence comes from the complete agreement between radiometric dates and other dating methods such as counting tree rings or glacier ice core layers.To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point.Geologists draw on it and other basic principles ( to determine the relative ages of rocks or features such as faults.In living organisms, which are always taking in carbon, the levels of carbon 14 likewise stay constant.But in a dead organism, no new carbon is coming in, and its carbon 14 gradually begins to decay.

Most carbon atoms have six protons and six neutrons in their nuclei and are called carbon 12. But a tiny percentage of carbon is made of carbon 14, or radiocarbon, which has six protons and eight neutrons and is not stable: half of any sample of it decays into other atoms after 5,700 years.And it does not work on rocks or thoroughly mineralized fossils; it is only useful for relatively well-preserved organic materials such as cloth, wood, and other non-fossilized materials.Other methods must be used to estimate the age of rocks and minerals.A form of radiometric dating used to determine the age of organic remains in ancient objects, such as archaeological specimens, on the basis of the half-life of carbon-14 and a comparison between the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in a sample of the remains to the known ratio in living organisms. A technique for measuring the age of organic remains based on the rate of decay of carbon 14.The carbon 14 present in an organism at the time of its death decays at a steady rate, and so the age of the remains can be calculated from the amount of carbon 14 that is left. The cells of all living things contain carbon atoms that they take in from their environment.

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The lowest age defended on a scientific basis is in the 6 to 10 thousand year range.

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