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In fact, the whole method is a giant ‘clock’ which seems to put a very young upper limit on the age of the atmosphere.
The article is in straightforward language and the non-technical reader could profitably work through it.
This means that he thought that C was entering the atmosphere as fast as it was leaving—calculations show that this should take place in about 30,000 years, and of course the Earth was much older than that, said the geologists.
Imagine a tank with water flowing in at a certain rate, and flowing out again at the same rate (see diagram below). If you saw it for the first time, you wouldn’t be able to work out how old it was—how long it had been since it was ‘switched on’.
Radiocarbon dating is a method of estimating the age of organic material.
Radiation counters are used to detect the electrons given off by decaying Carbon-14 as it turns into nitrogen.
How do we know what the ratio was before then, though, say thousands of years ago?
It is assumed that the ratio has been constant for a very long time before the industrial revolution. (For on it hangs the whole validity of the system.) Why did W. Libby, the brilliant discoverer of this system, assume this?
By measuring the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of the artifact.
Carbon-14 dating—explained in everyday terms by Dr Carl Wieland An attempt to explain this very important method of dating and the way in which, when fully understood, it supports a ‘short’ timescale.