Margin of error in radiocarbon dating

Living organisms are constantly incorporating this C-14 into their bodies along with other carbon isotopes.

This tree rarely produces even a trace of an extra ring; on the contrary, a typical bristlecone pine has up to 5 percent of its rings missing.

Question: A sample that is more than fifty thousand years old shouldn't have any measurable C-14. Radiocarbon dating doesn't work well on objects much older than twenty thousand years, because such objects have so little C-14 left that their beta radiation is swamped out by the background radiation of cosmic rays and potassium-40 (K-40) decay. this isotope [K-40] accounts for a large part of the normal background radiation that can be detected on the earth's surface" (p. This radiation cannot be totally eliminated from the laboratory, so one could probably get a "radiocarbon" date of fifty thousand years from a pure carbon-free piece of tin.

Coal, oil, and natural gas are supposed to be millions of years old; yet creationists say that some of them contain measurable amounts of C-14, enough to give them C-14 ages in the tens of thousands of years. Younger objects can easily be dated, because they still emit plenty of beta radiation, enough to be measured after the background radiation has been subtracted out of the total beta radiation. However, you now know why this fact doesn't at all invalidate radiocarbon dates of objects younger than twenty thousand years and is certainly no evidence for the notion that coals and oils might be no older than fifty thousand years.

When dating wood there is no such problem because wood gets its carbon straight from the air, complete with a full dose of C-14.

The creationists who quote Kieth and Anderson never tell you this, however.

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