Astonishing balancing act in nature
It is one of the most astonishing balancing acts in nature. Carbon 14 is created in the upper atmosphere at just about exactly the same rate they decays. In other words the right amount of subatomic particles from outer space strike the earth day in and day out, year in and year out, so that the levels of carbon 14 are fairly consistent over long periods of time. There are some years when carbon 14 production is a bit higher and other years when it is a bit lower but overall production of carbon 14 does not exceed its rate of decay. if it did this planet would be sizzling with radioactivity in life, as we know it, could not exist.
In a sense, for every C14 atom that dies another one is born. Scientists are quite certain that it has been this way for tens of thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. Estimated adjustments for year to year variances have been calculated by dating the rings of very old trees. Well, it was consistent until we started exploding nuclear bombs. We have to account for this as well when carbon dating materials.
For the most part, scientists are very comfortable with carbon dating. In theory, it should have been possible to date the shroud reliably. However, there are anomalous situations From time to time. Usually this has to do with the quality of the sample and not the technology. As it turns out that was the problem with the shroud of Turin.
- Carbon dating in 1988
- What is carbon dating?
- Why are carbon 14 levels consistent in living things?
- What do you mean, carbon 14 is radioactive?