Radioactive carbon dating animation
The ions produced are forced into a magnetic field where the different mass of the carbon isotopes causes a different deflection, allowing the quantity of each isotope to be measured.
This method is claimed to be more accurate than the older and slower method of counting the number of radioactive decay emissions from a quite large sample.
PROBLEMS WITH RADIOCARBON DATING During the last 30 years, a new method of determining C14/C12 ratios has been developed.
It uses accelerator mass spectrometry to determine the amounts of C14 and C12 in a small sample which is vaporised in the test.
But in actual practice, we know neither the original ratios nor if the specimen has been contaminated and are forced to make what we hope are reasonable assumptions.
The tiny initial amount of C14, the relatively rapid rate of decay (the half-life of C14 is currently about 5700 years) and the ease with which samples can become contaminated make radiocarbon dating results for samples "older" than about 50,000 years effectively meaningless.
Radiocarbon dating is frequently used to date ancient human settlements or tools. It is a stable atom that will not change its atomic mass under normal circumstances.
However, because it has too many neutrons for the number of protons it contains, it is not a stable atom.
Every 5,730 years, approximately half of this radioactive carbon spontaneously converts itself back into nitrogen by emitting an electron from a neutron.
Surely 15,000 years of difference on a single block of soil is indeed a gross discrepancy!
And how could the excessive disagreement between the labs be called insignificant, when it has been the basis for the reappraisal of the standard error associated with each and every date in existence?
They found large variations in the radiocarbon 'dates' of objects of known age sent to 38 radiocarbon 'dating' laboratories around the world.