Carbon dating will soon be obsolete

William the Conquerer dressed with Carbon dating in 2050

When Archaeologists find a new fossil and want to find out how old it is what do they do? They carbon date it. But soon they won’t be able to.

What is Carbon Dating?

Carbon Dating looks at the amount of 14C an object has. 14C is a radioactive isotope of traditional carbon, 12C. Plants and animals breath in 14C from the atmosphere where it is created by cosmic rays interacting with Nitrogen.

Take a look at the picture below, can you tell the difference between 14C and 12C? Here is a hint.

Carbon Isotopes, 14C is used in carbon dating

Once the plant or animal dies the 14C begins to decay away reducing the concentration. By looking at the concentrations in fossils we are able to accurately determine how old a specimen is… Until now.
Rate of 14C decay used for carbon dating

Carbon Dating and Driving your Car

When we drive around town or heat our homes we burn fossil fuels. The name implies we are burning dead plants and animals from long ago. A description that would be accurate.

All of that driving and heating and burning things swamps our atmosphere with cabon emissions, and dilutes the amount of 14C. That means when plants or animals die now they start off will less 14C, making them appear older. That means we could misidentify an object for being far older than it actually is.

In fact, studies show that Carbon Dating will be impacted by our emissions in just 5 years. If we keep going along this path, by 2050 a piece of clothing would carbon date to being 1000 years old! Instead of getting a good idea of what William the Conquerer wore, we will get an image of current day trends. It will be utterly confusing.

William the Conquerer dressed with Carbon dating in 2050

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