How Accurate Is Carbon Dating?

How Accurate Is Carbon Dating? Carbon dating is the method by which old dating substances based on their date of origination are determined. The method works best by measuring the level of carbon-content (C-content) left behind in an original isotope of carbon. Carbon-content is a very useful and important characteristic of different kinds of fossil fuels.

If we are to test the results of this dating method, then the instruments for doing so must be reliable. To measure the level of carbon 14, or to find out about its antiquity, we can depend on radioactive dating. The accuracy of the method depends, of course, on the source of the carbon dates. If it were from dinosaur bones, or from ancient shells, then we could be pretty sure of the results. However, there are many other sources which may give incorrect dates. For instance, if a fossil fuel were dated using a dated piece of wood, or by electron microprobe, we could not really say that the dating was correct.

The accuracy of this kind of dating depend on different parameters. First of all, we have to test the uniformity of the isotopes of carbon fourteen with those of other substances in the samples. This is very difficult to do. And, moreover, what happens when we do test them is that we get very many results, and then have to analyze them carefully, since only a part of the sample is used. Sometimes, the results may be wrong for isotopes. So, the whole dating procedure turns out to be very difficult.

The accuracy of this carbon dating technique can be tested at two places: The atomic or the molecular level. Usually, both methods give very similar results. And, we can conclude that the ratio between the atomic and the molecular weights of the carbon compounds determines the accuracy of the results. There are several calibration curves which measure the accuracy, but they are too difficult to be understood on the basis of experiments.

A few important points should be mentioned here: The calculated values do not necessarily agree with the actual measurements, sometimes. And, even if they agree, the calculation is only based on the minimum and the maximum values, and so the calculations always tend to give much greater values than the real measurements. In addition to that, the calculation of the age of fossils depend on the accuracy of the fossil calibration. Therefore, we can say that the question ” how accurate is carbon dating?” is still unanswered.

The calculation of the age of fossils based on radiocarbon dating is actually an estimate. We do not know exactly how accurate this estimation is. It may be wrong up to some extent. But, the result is still reliable, because this technique has been used since the mid-20th century to estimate the age of fossils from the fossils which have been found. If we have to go in for a calculation, we should make sure that we are referring to the right samples, for the calculation to be accurate.