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The other major factor affecting the results of carbon dating is gauging the original proportion of carbon-14 itself.

Radiocarbon dating can’t tell the difference between wood that was cut and immediately used for the spear, and wood that was cut years before being re-used for that purpose.

Nor can it tell if a much older spearhead was attached to a brand-new shaft.

Carbon dating is reliable within certain parameters but certainly not infallible.

When testing an object using radiocarbon dating, several factors have to be considered: First, carbon dating only works on matter that was once alive, and it only determines the approximate date of death for that sample.

Question: "Is carbon dating a reliable method for determining the age of things?

" Answer: Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, like any other laboratory testing technique, can be extremely reliable, so long as all of the variables involved are controlled and understood.As samples get older, errors are magnified, and assumptions can render carbon dating all but useless.For example, variations in greenhouse effects and solar radiation change how much carbon-14 a living organism is exposed to, which drastically changes the “starting point” from which a radiocarbon dating test is based.Even then, a large proportion of radiocarbon dating tests return inconsistent, or even incoherent, results, even for tests done on the same sample.The explanation given for these outliers is usually “contamination.” Inconsistent results are another reason why multiple samples, multiples tests, and various parallel methods are used to date objects.When an organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon-14, and whatever is inside gradually decays into other elements.Carbon-14 normally makes up about 1 trillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000) of the earth’s atmosphere.Due to all these factors, it’s common for carbon dating results of a particular sample, or even a group of samples, to be rejected for the sole reason that they don’t align with the “expected” results.That’s not unusual in science, so far as it goes, but the relationship between assumptions and interpretations must be kept in mind. At worst, it can make carbon dating circular and self-confirming, though there are other means of dating that can reduce this risk.Scientists must assume how much carbon-14 was in the organism when it died.Complicating matters is the fact that Earth’s carbon-14 concentrations change drastically based on various factors.

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