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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Uh oh, here they come... (C13/C12 dating news)


I'm sure we are going to be hearing about this soon/a lot. Just thought I'd preemptively inform the community. Basically new research funded by the National Science Foundation at the University of Miami is shows that carbon dating (the 13C/12C ratio used to infer age) in the ocean can only be trusted up to 150 million years ago. Link So prepare for the "scientists say carbon dating isn't reliable arguments."

Edit: Corrected isotope to 13C not 14C

PS (added from my comment): I know this isn't about "normal" carbon dating, but do you think that the Ray Comforts, Casey Luskins and Ken Hams of the world will understand that this is a different method of dating? I fear not and it will just be blanketed in with ALL "carbon" dating. Hence the reason I posted it.

21 comments:

  1. Nooooooo... It can't be! My entire evil evolutionary atheist worldview is dying... dying...

    Of course, anyone who knows anything at all about radiometric dating knows that there is more than one method that can be used, and that known age limits are taken into account when getting dates.

    Since Ray and his audience don't number within the above category, I reluctantly agree with you: We're going to be hearing a lot about this...

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  2. Damn Science, why must it always change. If only there were some static record or information source that I could get all of my information from instead.

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  3. I thought that the debate about the reliability of carbon dating was over a decade ago.

    Haven't we decided that Carbon dating isn't as reliable as we once thought, but we've got other, cooler ways of dating that are?

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  4. 150 million years still blows the shit out of a literal interpretation of Genesis.

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  5. Rob, this is about C13/C12 dating.

    The carbon dating most people talk about is C14 dating which is more reliable now than it has ever been.

    What's interesting is that C13/C12 ratios are rarely used for dating. What scientists do is drill into sediment layers and compare C13 to C12 ratios in different areas of the layer.

    Since the C13 and C12 ratios vary depending on climate, you can use it to gauge age a bit like counting tree rings, but it's mostly for studying the climate history of the sediment.

    You can also use C13 and C12 to determine diets of fossilized creatures.

    Nobody really uses C13/C12 for absolute dating. Testing for rubidium-strontium and other radioisotope levels is much more widely accepted and standardized method for measuring age.

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  6. Stop the presses. This is NOT about carbon-dating (which is still the most accurate dating method we have) but which is limited to dating organic shit up to about 90,000 years old based on the decay rates of C14.

    Reread the article. It talks about the estimates of organic activity on the planet based on the C12/C13 content of the sediments.

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  7. Ray never picked up on this, but a week or two ago, there was a study that shows that beta decay is not as constant as we once thought. In fact, it appears the level of atomic decay is seasonal leading to the hypothesis that neutrino exposure from the Sun may affect decay rates.

    The differences in decay rates peaked at about +-1/10 of a percent, but I was expecting young Earthers to jump all over this.

    I don't read many creationist blogs. but I imagine there would be a lot of happy creationists since many have argued that decay rates could be variable for some time now... that is... if the story made rounds in the creationist community.

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  8. I know this isn't about "normal" carbon dating, but do you think that the Ray Comforts, Casey Luskins and Ken Hams of the world will understand that this is a different method of dating? I fear not and it will just be blanketed in with ALL "carbon" dating. hence the reason I posted it

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  9. This is not about dating at all. What they are saying is the the C13/C12 balance is not directly correlated to the organic activity at any given time. If I understand the article correctly, previously they had believed that they could evaluate the historical CO2 levels in the atmosphere based on the ratios. This study shows that this may not be the case.

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  10. Yeah, one has to constantly keep tabs on those guys, and record what their arguments are. I've just done that, though not with carbon dating, with some misquotes that someone put up on Ray's blog.

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  11. You just wait till they get that hardon collider runnin. That'll show em.

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  12. I know many Christians who are against the collision of hardons.

    *insert black hole joke here*

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  13. Forgive me for not being up-to-date. however:

    I've been a Richard Feynman fan for over a decade. Although his material is upwards of 40-50 years old, I remember him describing one method we've used to assess the age of the Earth. It involved Uranium decaying into Lead; knowing the general rate at which this happens, you can (not literally) assess ocean water for levels of both, and extrapolate backwards.

    It's obviously more complicated than that; you'd have to assay multiple points on the planet, and be able to understand the difference between lead and lead which came from uranium decay.

    Back then when the lectures were contemporary, the figure was still close to the current 4.6 billion years old.

    Can anyone more knowledgable about particle physics (or have more experience than I do in general) explain where I'm wrong - or confirm that the uncertainty in carbon dating methods doesn't impact our current estimate of the age of the earth?

    Thanks in advance...

    PS. a quick followup: it should be no surprise that the fundies don't keep up with current advances in science...

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  14. @whateverman
    doesn't impact our current estimate of the age of the earth

    I have stated it already and I will reiterate it. This is NOT about dating. It is about inferring the levels of organic activity at times older than 150 million years ago. The article suggests that the assumptions that have been used to date may not be valid.

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  15. John doyle said: I have stated it already and I will reiterate it. This is NOT about dating.

    Isn't this then about dating, but only if the age is less than 150mil years?

    I'm being specific not to be a PITA, but because I want to know more about the subject :) Actually, I'll just spend more time looking at the article.

    Thanks for the (repeated) feedback - your point is well taken...

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  16. Hmm... I've had an idea.

    Why don't we let Ray know that carbon dating in the ocean can only be trusted up to 150 million years ago?

    Give him all the info straight up right now (including the fact that this makes no difference to the radiometric dating system), and thus strangle the otherwise inevitable "Carbon dating is a lie" post before it is even born, and save ourselves the effort of refuting it...

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  17. I agree completely. Although I suspect he'll react predictably, let him know.

    And do it publically (if possible). Give the rest of the fundies a chance to read and react.

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  18. OK, cool. Under the new "It's a Sick World" post, you will find the following comment:

    ===================================

    New studies indicate that Carbon dating isn't reliable

    The next post will contain a link to the scientific article Ray. Just putting it there to ensure this post isn't deleted. Here's a paragraph from the ScienceDaily article "Scientist Uncovers Miscalculation In Geological Undersea Record".

    The article wrote
    "It appears that records related to carbonate platforms which are often used throughout the early history of the Earth are not good recorders of the 13C/12C ratio in the open oceans. Hence, the work presented suggests that assumptions made previously about changes in the 13C/12C ratios of carbonate sediments in the geological record are incorrect."

    Now, it is necessary to point out that this isn't C14 dating, which is what is normally referred to as "Carbon dating". C13/C12 dating provides (quote) "estimates of organic activity on the planet based on the C12/C13 content of the sediments."

    By counting the seasonal 'layers' (because global organic activity changes over the course of a year) it is possible to get a rough date (much like tree rings), but this method is very rarely used: other methods are far more accurate. (quote) "Testing for rubidium-strontium and other radioisotope levels is much more widely accepted and standardized method for measuring age."

    Normally, C12/C13 comparison has been used to make estimates of the global climate, and of the diet of some fossilized creatures, not dating...

    As the article points out, it has now been learned that dating using this method is fundumentally flawed: beyond ages of 150 million years, it all falls apart.

    A perfect example of the self-repairing nature of science, don't you agree Ray?

    Quotes are taken from the article and various posters on the Raytractors blog. Special thanks to them for bringing this discovery to our attention.

    ===================================

    Immediately after that, you should find this (the promised link):

    ===================================
    Science Daily: >"Scientist Uncovers Miscalculation In Geological Undersea Record"
    ===================================

    Let's take guesses on how he reacts.

    We have the following possibilities:

    1) He honestly admits that it's an interesting discovery.
    2) He ignores it.
    3) He doesn't post the comment.
    4) He writes a blog post or comment completely misrepresenting the article.
    5) Both 3 & 4
    6) He gets bitchy because I beat him to it, and now he can't misrepresent the article.
    7) His head explodes trying to accept the idea of radiologists admiting that it is wrong about something.
    8) He realises he was wrong about science and accepts an old ear- ppptthhhh- No I can't finish the sentence with a straght face.
    () He finally comes clean and admits He IS Jesus Reborn, and is pretty f*cking pissed with humanity and going to burn us off the face of the planet if He doesn't get a proper beer and burnt sacrifice in the next three minutes.
    9) He finally comes clean and admits to being an asexual insectoid from the planet Z'RG'N, who came here to perform an experiment on the sheer gullibility of humanity, and is now going home with more data then he ever imagined possible.
    10) Something I haven't thought of: feel free to add more options to this list.

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  19. @Dale, Yeager

    This link is for you (Warning: Not safe for work)

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  20. Well, I suppose that answers that question. Ray or one of his moderators allowed it through (not the link...), but completely ignored it.

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Unlike Ray we don't censor our comments, so as long as it's on topic and not spam, fire away.

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