They have their work cut out for them, however, because radiocarbon (C-14) dating is one of the most reliable of all the radiometric dating methods.This article will answer several of the most common creationist attacks on carbon-14 dating, using the question-answer format that has proved so useful to lecturers and debaters. Answer: Cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere are constantly converting the isotope nitrogen-14 (N-14) into carbon-14 (C-14 or radiocarbon).Living organisms are constantly incorporating this C-14 into their bodies along with other carbon isotopes.When the organisms die, they stop incorporating new C-14, and the old C-14 starts to decay back into N-14 by emitting beta particles.The older an organism's remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.So, if we measure the rate of beta decay in an organic sample, we can calculate how old the sample is. Question: Kieth and Anderson radiocarbon-dated the shell of a living freshwater mussel and obtained an age of over two thousand years.
Everything from the fibres in the Shroud of Turin to Otzi the Iceman has had their birthday determined the carbon-14 way. There's plenty of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen in living things too, but carbon's got something none of them do — a radioactive isotope that can take thousands of years to decay.These two radiocarbon dating methods use modern standards such as oxalic acid and other reference materials.Although both radiocarbon dating methods produce high-quality results, they are fundamentally different in principle.Thanks to nuclear physics, mass spectrometers have been fine-tuned to separate a rare isotope from an abundant neighboring mass, and accelerator mass spectrometry was born.A method has finally been developed to detect carbon 14 in a given sample and ignore the more abundant isotopes that swamp the carbon 14 signal.For a rare event it happens pretty damn often — one million carbon-14 atoms in your body decay into nitrogen every minute!