Carbon dating age of
The amount of cosmic rays penetrating the earth's atmosphere is itself affected by things like the earth's magnetic field which deflects cosmic rays.
Precise measurements taken over the last 140 years have shown a steady decay in the strength of the earth's magnetic field.
Love-hungry teenagers and archaeologists agree: dating is hard.
But while the difficulties of single life may be intractable, the challenge of determining the age of prehistoric artifacts and fossils is greatly aided by measuring certain radioactive isotopes.
Though still heavily used, relative dating is now augmented by several modern dating techniques.
Radiocarbon dating involves determining the age of an ancient fossil or specimen by measuring its carbon-14 content.
C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).
The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive, though it is not dangerous.
We must also assume that the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the atmosphere has remained constant throughout the unobservable past (so we can know what the ratio was at the time of the specimen's death).
This man-made fluctuation wasn't a natural occurrence, but it demonstrates the fact that fluctuation is possible and that a period of natural upheaval upon the earth could greatly affect the ratio.
Volcanoes spew out CO which could just as effectively decrease the ratio.
First of all, it's predicated upon a set of questionable assumptions.
We have to assume, for example, that the rate of decay (that is, a 5,730 year half-life) has remained constant throughout the unobservable past.
So, if we find the remains of a dead creature whose C-12 to C-14 ratio is half of what it's supposed to be (that is, one C-14 atom for every two trillion C-12 atoms instead of one in every trillion) we can assume the creature has been dead for about 5,730 years (since half of the radiocarbon is missing, it takes about 5,730 years for half of it to decay back into nitrogen).