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The field of radiocarbon dating has become a technical one far removed from the naive simplicity which characterized its initial introduction by Libby in the late 1940's.It is, therefore, not surprising that many misconceptions about what radiocarbon can or cannot do and what it has or has not shown are prevalent among creationists and evolutionists - lay people as well as scientists not directly involved in this field.Radioactive decay causes once-living specimens to lose half of their C14 atoms in about each 5,730-year half-life.Thus, if the level today is half of what it was estimated to be when the thing died, it is said to be 5,730 years old.Atoms of radioactive isotopes are unstable and decay over time by shooting off particles at a fixed rate, transmuting the material into a more stable substance.For instance, half the mass of carbon-14, an unstable isotope of carbon, will decay into nitrogen-14 over a period of 5,730 years. Study of the dependence of 198Au half-life on source geometry.

by Brian Dunning Filed under General Science, Natural History, Religion Skeptoid Podcast #146 March 24, 2009 Podcast transcript | Download | Subscribe Listen: Today we're going to point our skeptical eye at one of the key players in the debate between geologists and Young Earthers over the age of the Earth. Steven Austin took a sample of dacite from the new lava dome inside Mount St. The dacite sample was known to have been formed from a 1986 magma flow, and so its actual age was an established fact. Austin submitted the sample for radiometric dating to an independent laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.The results came back dating the rock to 350,000 years old, with certain compounds within it as old as 2.8 million years. Austin's conclusion is that radiometric dating is uselessly unreliable. Austin chose a dating technique that is inappropriate for the sample tested, and charged that he deliberately used the wrong experiment in order to promote the idea that science fails to show that the Earth is older than the Bible claims.Yet the experiment remains as one of the cornerstones of the Young Earth movement.For example: “Nobody cites the many hundreds of C Carbon-14 is radioactive—therefore, it decays over time.It can be used as a dating tool because creatures and plants accumulate it during their lifetimes, and cease doing so when they die. If four essential facts are known, an age can be calculated with precision.

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