Accuracy of Carbon Dating

QUESTION: Can we improve the accuracy of carbon dating?


Can we improve the accuracy of carbon dating? I'm confident that we can improve the accuracy of carbon dating somewhat, but only if we acknowledge and carefully study the various factors which may play a role in how reliable our foundational assumptions are.

In order for carbon dating to by accurate certain foundational assumptions must first be true. We must assume to know that the rate at which carbon-14 decays into nitrogen-14 hasn't somehow changed throughout the unobservable past. We must also assume to know what the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 was in the environment in which our specimen lived during its lifetime. And finally, we must assume that there hasn't been any contamination in the specimen which we are attempting to date. Scientific research has called the first two assumptions into question. In order to improve the accuracy of carbon dating, we must look at why these assumptions are questionable and how we can compensate for the uncertainties raised by our doubts. Scientists have made progress with the second assumption by employing the use of dendrochronology (tree-ring dating). Unfortunately the use of dendrochronology to calibrate carbon dating is itself fraught with uncertainties. But it is at least a start. With further research we may be able to hone the method and increase our confidence in it.

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