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Research Finds Carbon Dating Flawed

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the kinda-old dept.

Earth 625

eldavojohn writes "New research funded by the National Science Foundation at the University of Miami is showing that carbon dating (the 13C/12C ratio used to infer age) in the ocean can only be trusted up to 150 million years ago. From the primary researcher, 'This study is a major step in terms of rethinking how geologists interpret variations in the 13C/12C ratio throughout Earth's history. If the approach does not work over the past 10 million years, then why would it work during older time periods? As a consequence of our findings, changes in 13C/12C records need to be reevaluated, conclusions regarding changes in the reservoirs of carbon will have to be reassessed, and some of the widely-held ideas regarding the elevation of CO2 during specific periods of the Earth's geological history will have to be adjusted.' While this research doesn't necessarily throw carbon dating out the window, it should cause people to rethink so many theories about early life that revolved around ages of sediment in the oceans."

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625 comments

Title (5, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956501)

Is frustrating, oh no its only accurate for 150million years. JUST WAIT for the ID people to jump all over this and start with the whole dinosaurs didnt exist, invisible man made everything 5000years ago. *sighs* these people live in my neighborhood and are going to harass me with their ignorance again.

Re:Title (4, Insightful)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956639)

Is frustrating, oh no its only accurate for 150million years. JUST WAIT for the ID people to jump all over this and start with the whole dinosaurs didnt exist, invisible man made everything 5000years ago. *sighs* these people live in my neighborhood and are going to harass me with their ignorance again.

I realize that you're somewhat frustrated, but this does not prove science wrong. After all, that's what science is all about. You make a discovery and you prove it. Eventually, the discovery is disproved/adjusted/strenghtened due to new findings. And again, and again, and again.

Re:Title (5, Insightful)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956689)

It's not the science he's upset about, it's the reporting.

Re:Title (3, Insightful)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956751)

Now, if only the creationists would adjust their fucking theory...

Re:Title (2, Insightful)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956843)

As soon as it is disproved/adjusted/strenghtened due to new findings.

Re:Title (1, Flamebait)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956921)

Are you fucking kidding me? There's been tons of evidence that requires an adjustment of their theory.

Of course, all things that contradict their worldview are the works of satan!

Re:Title (2, Funny)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957707)

As soon as it is disproved/adjusted/strenghtened due to new findings.

Book of Mormon?

Jesus was actually a Cylon, and God is a supercomputer. That's a new finding that should satisfy any creationist---it strictly adheres to the "pulled it out of my ass" standard of peer-review.

Re:Title (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956655)

Imagine being on the other side having your beliefs ridiculed every time some new scientific theory is made public? This goes both ways. BTW not everyone in the Intelligent Design camp believes the earth is 5000 years old.

Re:Title (1, Insightful)

Copid (137416) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956789)

Imagine being on the other side having your beliefs ridiculed every time some new scientific theory is made public?

One solution to that problem might be not holding on to a belief that flies in the face of observable reality.

Re:Title (4, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957061)

Hmmm. Is slashdot going to have this debate again? If memory serves no one "won" the last time. How about we cut to the chase and simply say "we agree to disagree".

Re:Title (4, Insightful)

catbutt (469582) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957487)

Did you maintain a count of how many opinions were changed? How do you know?

No one is going to admit they lost an argument. Some people who argued will later realize their position is weak. Other people were fence straddlers, and simply lurked and read while others debated. And some actually changed their opinion.

There are a lot of creationists who have changed their opinion, it just happens gradually, a concept many have difficulty with. You are about as unlikely to see a creationist suddenly say "wow, you're right!" as you are to see monkey give birth to a human.

Re:Title (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957607)

Practicing a bit of conceit I see. There could have been evolutionists who have changed their opinions as well. Anyway regardless of who changes what. The debate has been more heat than light every time the topic has came up and it has come up plenty of times in the eight years I've been here.

Well duh! (5, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956679)

I've been trying to date carbon based life forms for a while now and it is damn tricky.

I was going to switch to one of those plastic blow up dolls until I found out that they're loaded with carbon too!

Re:Well duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957619)

I've been trying to date carbon based life forms for a while now and it is damn tricky.

You need wait patiently, so that you will be too old to be dated (about 1 billion years old), and become much more denser and with better clarity than your peers (like the shiny gemstones sold by Jared), and you need some really good cutting and polishing, which will make you the envy of 50% of the carbon-based life forms on this planet.

And I hope you wouldn't end up in the hands of Blofeld.

Re:Well duh! (3, Funny)

Migity (1199059) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957641)

Doesn't posting on /. make it harder to date carbon based life forms??? You may want to look into that.

Re:Title (0, Flamebait)

ChuckSchwab (813568) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956701)

It sure is fun to huh-huh-guffaw about ID ... until you realize, after some reflection, that evolution is, at root, just a theory.

You know, as in ... not fact and all.

Re:Title (4, Informative)

Le Marteau (206396) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956919)

I'm not sure you understand what the word "theory" means in science. I'll give you a hand. From (eeek) Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

"In scientific usage, a theory does not mean an unsubstantiated guess or hunch, as it can in everyday speech. A theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a related set of natural or social phenomena."

"Theories" are built upon "Facts". "Intelligent Design" does not even reach the level of a "Theory" because it is not based upon facts, but mere conjecture.

Re:Title (0)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957135)

You said:

It sure is fun to huh-huh-guffaw about ID ... until you realize, after some reflection, that evolution is, at root, just a theory.

You know, as in ... not fact and all.

And the general scientific consensus:

In science a theory is a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise verified through empirical observation. For the scientist, "theory" is not in any way an antonym of "fact".

- Wikipedia

Well anything based on a scientific method is good enough for me. Some people just get their "facts" from a Bible.

Re:Title (4, Insightful)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957723)

Poppers rule of Demarcation is a better measure.

IF a theory can be disproved by an observation, then it is a theory.

If there is no disprovable facts in a theory, then it is not a theory. (it must also have significant supporting evidence for it to get to the theory stage, otherwise it is a hypothesis)

ID is not a theory because there is no way to disprove it. No can prove there is no God(s), therefore it is not a matter of science, it is a matter of belief.

Evolution does not state life began on earth by autogenesis. It states that species evolve and specialize, and that more complex lifeforms evolved from lesser life forms.

So there are several possibilities:
a. Autogenesis
b. Exo-genesis (life came from another planet)
c. Intelligent Design (genesis)
d. Exo-genesis by another life form. (Quite a few nutters fall into this category, but it is also possible)

Occums Razor cuts out c, marginalizes d, and splits a/b in half with a being the most simple explanation.
If we find identical lifeforms on Mars or in comet/astroid that matched Earth DNA exactly AND it predated any lifeform possibility on earth then b gets a boost as to how life formed on Earth.

Title-Boo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956813)

"Is frustrating, oh no its only accurate for 150million years. JUST WAIT for the ID people to jump all over this and start with the whole dinosaurs didn't exist"

It doesn't say they didn't exist. The time line however may be a problem.

"invisible man made everything 5000years ago."

The only people saying "invisible man" are atheists trying to think they're clever.

"*sighs* these people live in my neighborhood and are going to harass me with their ignorance again."

Much like you're "harassing" people by posting here.

Re:Title (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957041)

What are you talking about? Young Earth Creationists aren't arguing that dinosaurs didn't exist. They are arguing that they existed at the same time as humans and were eventually killed off by the Flood!

Re:Title (2, Funny)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957043)

I'm sure the carbon dating will prove that the Earth was created 6000 years ago as scienticians re-evaluate the alchemy involved in the study of Earths history. Me and my buddies at the NRA were waiting for the Truth to come out and hit Humanist reality with a 45 caliber hollow point bullet. Now hopefully we can bring FUD to conspiracy of Ape-man Darwinism and relish in the biblical Truth that the big bang happened before the domestication of dogs. If you believe in Science then you have little faith.

Re:Title (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957157)

You may be correct about how people in your neighborhood will react, I have my doubts, though. On Slashdot, though, it's only ever people jumping on an opportunity to talk down about religion that I see making any religion based comments on this stuff. I am also not harassed about this stuff by the religious people at work, at restaurants, or walking down the street.

Re:Title (3, Interesting)

magus_melchior (262681) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957195)

Serious question to elucidate those who are misinformed (including myself): What effect does the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent history's use of fossil fuels have on carbon dating?

Re:Title (1)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957205)

An acquaintance once told me that a man buried a chicken bone in his back yard and then told scientists he found a fossil. They carbon dated it and found it to be ~5000 years old (allegedly, according to this acquaintances story).

Through this, it was inferred that dinosaurs are a test of our faith.

I was quite disgusted but didn't want to get in a debate about this, because I knew my facts and knew she didn't.

The facts being, of course, that this had to be the MAGIC chicken ZORTHARQUACK from THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO.

Best cure for fundamentalists: scripture. (5, Informative)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957523)

You need to learn the bible for insight into much of western thought, but you should also learn it for the fun that can be had with it's biblically ignorant followers.

First, ask them what the ten commandments are. This will trip 95% of them up and they'll walk away without bothering you. If they say that the commandments are not important, tell them you think the same about the rest of the Bible.

Claim you don't believe in Yahweh because you don't believe in infanticide. They'll give you a strange look, and then ask them to read Psalm 137:9, which is in context, Jews daydreaming about smashing their enemies' infants to pieces.

Ask them if they eat lobster, or if there's a girl in the group, if they wear pants. If they say yes, ask them why they support the homosexual agenda, since all three are abominations according to the bible.

They will go to great lengths to explain away why what they do or don't is covered by some painful translation-based loopholes, and what everyone else does is what's really wrong. This is the basic definition of a hypocrite, which concerns my favorite scripture:

'As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.'

Don't get me wrong, the world would be a great place of everyone followed the advice of Jesus, but most of them have never read more than ten pages of their Holy Book.

Re:Title (0, Troll)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957551)

Actually, the people who are critical of being lead like sheep into believing current estimates on the age of the earth (whether intelligent design proponents or simply intelligent critical thinkers) have been citing flaws in carbon dating for years.

There are many other interesting situations in which carbon dating may be giving us false data upon which we build other theories. Presently there are too many circular arguments in so-called scientific theories on the age of the earth which cannot be independently or repeatably tested for me to throw any weight behind the random numbers I saw in my text books.

Note, when I read your response, it struck me as being ideological rather than intelligent -- much like those who don't want science taught because they're afraid of it, you don't want to be confronted with others' beliefs.

Re:Title (-1, Troll)

Soundfx4 (956620) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957575)

ignorance? You want to talk about ignorance, why don't you listen to what your saying you dip shit. You're so closed minded it's not even funny. God an invisible man...who ever said that?! I can't get over your stupidity, it's just astounding! First of all, if god exists (and I do believe he does) nothing he does is magic! Everything that happens in this world, by our doing, or otherwise is science, period. Just because we can't even begin to comprehend how something works doesn't mean it's magic, or that it never happened. I've always thought carbon dating was just a load of BS anyway. Earth could be 5000 years old (yes it could only be that old, it's very possible) or it could be millions (just as possible). You can't just start making educated guesses based on the limited knowledge that humans posses and call them "facts". The only way anyone would ever know the truth and be 100% sure of it is if they were as old as the earth itself and witnessed everything. That being said, I hope your so called "ignorant" neighbors bug the shit out of you to the point where you kill yourself under the pressure. And wouldn't it just be great to find out that heaven and hell does exists, and because of your stubborn nature and asshole attitude you get sent strait to hell!? Now that would put a smile on my face.

Re:Title (2, Insightful)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957733)

Is frustrating, oh no its only accurate for 150million years. JUST WAIT for the ID people to jump all over this and start with the whole dinosaurs didnt exist, invisible man made everything 5000years ago. *sighs* these people live in my neighborhood and are going to harass me with their ignorance again.

I'm sure they get tired of you harassing them with your holier-than-thou attitude. Remember, one man's teaching the "facts" is another man's spreading propaganda. Both sides always feels harassed except that one side is always thinking it's one way because of the holier-than-though attitude.

Oh no! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956505)

carbon dating can only be trusted up to 150 million years ago

Does that mean we'll never know for sure how old John McCain is?

Re:Oh no! (1)

malkir (1031750) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956589)

lol, win win

Re:Oh no! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956977)

> Does that mean we'll never know for sure how old John McCain is?

Nah, we just have to ask some dirt how old it is.

No... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957239)

it just means that we will never find out exactly what he's made of.

Re:Oh no! (3, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957261)

Does that mean we'll never know for sure how old John McCain is?

Big Bang is only a theory. Only McCain knows how the shit went down.

Re:Oh no! (4, Funny)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957353)

Does that mean we'll never know for sure how old John McCain is?

Not at all!

We just have to wait until he dies (which will no doubt be on November 5, because God hates us) to cut him open and count his rings.

Of course we know (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957365)

..he must be 6,000 years old. After all he can't be any older.

Paid for by the Creationists? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956507)

"See! We were right!"

Damn... (1, Flamebait)

despe666 (802244) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956515)

Creationists will be all over this... At least it shows that unlike them, scientists have the capacity to admit it when they're proven wrong.

Re:Damn... (0, Offtopic)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956565)

For crying out loud its a belief. Beliefs are by nature irrational. If you believe that the earth was created by aliens, God, etc it can't be proven either way.

Re:Damn... (2, Funny)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956731)

For crying out loud its a belief. Beliefs are by nature irrational. If you believe that the earth was created by aliens, God, etc it can't be proven either way.

Unless god(s) or the aliens actually shows up and confirms it of course. Even then I reckon there will be wide-ranging debate on the issue.

Re:Damn... (1)

True Grit (739797) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957717)

Unless god(s) or the aliens actually shows up and confirms it of course. Even then I reckon there will be wide-ranging debate on the issue.

Unless the aliens are armed with BFG-9000s, or its equivalent, in which case the debate will be *very* short-lived...

Re:Damn... (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957497)

For crying out loud its a belief.. Beliefs are by nature irrational.

I believe that if I throw this orange up in the air it will come back down. It's not an irrational belief, it's one arrived at based on a rational appraisal of what I've seen before. It's a belief that can be tested by actually throwing the orange up the air.

Accepting that beliefs are fundamentally irrational and unprovable is ridiculous.

Beliefs should be able to stand up to scrutiny.

Re:Damn... (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956621)

Well I have it from a very reliable source, Stephen Colbert, that the earth is only 6000 years old. So, some where, someone is wrong.

Re:Damn... (2, Insightful)

jadedoto (1242580) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956725)

The same ones that say "God put the fossils on Earth to test your faith" ?

Re:Damn... (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956851)

I'm a Creationist, and I've never heard that from anyone before. You, sir, are trolling.

Re:Damn... (0, Troll)

nawcom (941663) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956907)

I've heard that way too many times. You are defending an immortal creator, correct? If you have faith, then your immortal creator did create the fossils to test your faith. Read your damn bible.

Re:Damn... (2, Informative)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956987)

Unfortunately, he is not trolling. I've heard the very same thing before. I definitely have seen that opinion expressed by creationists, although it is hardly the majority. I've also heard that fossils are a device of the devil. Fortunately, these ideas were only from a select few.

Re:Damn... (4, Interesting)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957045)

I hear that all the time. And that the scientists who dig up dinosaur bones are agents of the Adversary, and that they know better but refuse to acknowledge God out of pride. This is out there. A quick anecdote:

When I was 7 or 8, there was a kid up the road who was about my same age from a Pentecostal family. Being a kid and fascinated by anything that seemed bitey, I loved dinosaurs, and at some point during a neighborhood get-together I told him so. He promptly told me that I was going to hell for believing Satan over God. I, growing up in a family that could be charitably described as occasionally Catholic, asked him (in slightly different terms) what the fuck he was talking about, and how he could refuse to believe that dinosaurs walked the earth when there were so many fossils and such a well-constructed fossil record. The conversation ended when he, within hearing range of both his parents and mine, shouted "Shut up, Satan! I'm going home to get my Bible!", and left.

Now, don't get me wrong, kids can make up some damned creative things- but I would wager my bottom dollar that there isn't a kid alive that would come up with the idea that dinosaur bones were planted by the Devil all on his own. My guess is that we don't have to look too far from the ol' homestead to figure out where he found that particular line.

Re:Damn... (1)

jadedoto (1242580) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957189)

A google search for that set of words brings up 777,000 results, with some verbatim matches. Maybe you should spend more time on the internet?

Re:Damn... (0, Offtopic)

bendodge (998616) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956947)

You're talking as if "scientist" be definition are not Creationists. Here is a very short list of Creationists you'll know:

Isaac Newton
Johannes Keplar
Robert Boyle

Re:Damn... (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957613)

This article is such easy pickings for trolls.

That's the thing with Scientists (2, Insightful)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957729)

They are still human.
Newton believed in alchemical transmutation.
Boyle wrote a paper claiming to have generated heat using gold and a special form of mercury.

Scientists get it wrong all the time. The process of science helps us get a better understanding than we had with time and effort, it doesn't make scientists perfect.

Re:Damn... (3, Informative)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957777)

You forgot Darwin:

Before the attraction of gravity was discovered . . . astronomers might have said God ordered each planet to move in its particular destiny. In the same manner God orders each animal created with certain forms in certain countries. But how much more simple and sublime to let attraction act according to certain law. -Darwin, 1837 notebook.

Re:Damn... (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957083)

This doesn't add any fuel to that particular fire. We're still talking about dates in the millions of years, while creationists will insist the earth isn't that old.

Re:Damn... (1)

mikenator.L (1360425) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957441)

I'm not gonna hoard over that Evolutionists made a mistake. Oops, big deal. From what I've seen, it really is not gonna make a difference. There will always be Atheists and Believers(whatever religion it may be). Believe what you want and spread it if you want, but don't go at each others throats about it. --Coming from a Christian, who is friends with atheists.

Jesus is the answer (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956545)

Dig a little further and you'll find the maximum age of anything on the earth is 20000 years. Satan has manipulated scientific results throughout the ages in order to steer the flock from the only knowledge that truly matters- that Jesus is your savior and no one cares about some dirty rocks under the ocean.

Re:Jesus is the answer (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956623)

JESUS cares about those dirty rocks, you insensitive clod!

Re:Jesus is the answer (4, Funny)

ichbineinneuben (1065378) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956645)

I'm having a hard time believing that "no one cares about some dirty rocks under the ocean" makes up a full half of the only knowledge that truly matters.

Re:Jesus is the answer (0)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957085)

But YOU care enough to post about them, apparently? I'm confused.

Spore? (5, Funny)

wcspxyx (120207) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956563)

Will there be a patch?

Re:Spore? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956875)

I think Spore already supports Intelligent Design.

Not news (5, Insightful)

orkybash (1013349) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956583)

Anyone who uses any form of radiometric dating knows that there are limits to the accuracy. The fact that a new limit was discovered doesn't make the technique "flawed", though I will grant that it may call for re-evaluation of some results. Anyone who thinks that the fact that these limits exist is news, though, is terribly misguided.

Re:Not news (4, Insightful)

DrCJM (827451) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956647)

Not wanting to be a pedant, but 13C/12C dating isn't radiometric. Neither isotope of carbon is radioactive.

OK, may I do want to be a pedant. :)

Re:Not news (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956757)

The title "Carbon Dating Flawed" was a poor choice as there are at least 2 different carbon dating methods, and the most common and well-known, radiocarbon-14 dating, isn't affected by the finding.

Re:Not news (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957647)

Based on the article, it appears that it isn't "dating" either: it is used to infer biological activity. Presumably, the sample would be dated using other isotopes.

Re:Not news (3, Insightful)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956763)

The fact that a new limit was discovered doesn't make the technique "flawed"

Well, to be proper, it does make it flawed, it just doesn't mean that the technique is worthless.

Re:Not news (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957029)

Anyone who uses any form of radiometric dating knows that there are limits to the accuracy. The fact that a new limit was discovered doesn't make the technique "flawed", though I will grant that it may call for re-evaluation of some results. Anyone who thinks that the fact that these limits exist is news, though, is terribly misguided.

He's right, I carbon dated the article.

Re:Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957391)

Anyone who uses any form of radiometric dating knows that there are limits to the accuracy. The fact that a new limit was discovered doesn't make the technique "flawed", though I will grant that it may call for re-evaluation of some results. Anyone who thinks that the fact that these limits exist is news, though, is terribly misguided.

Its certainly news. A few hundred million years off in certain periods would affect the time frame of the evolution of certain creatures. Slashdot actually got something right, encourage them

I can't wait (1)

nawcom (941663) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956597)

..for those young earth freaks to come out with some formula that shows that the 6000 is actually 150000000 due to mistranslations in the bible. *sticks thumb up butt*

Re:I can't wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956773)

They can't wait for you to get your thumb out of your butt so you stop stinking up the place.

Re:I can't wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957637)

That just doesn't make sense.

As long as it stays inserted there shouldn't be a problem... the place won't stink up until until he removes it

like... duh (1)

Anik315 (585913) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956607)

It's like always close to an order of magnitude off.

This has been known for some time (1)

jnmontario (865369) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956637)

Even back in the middle of the last century it was know that "Because the decay rate is logarithmic, radiocarbon dating has significant upper and lower limits. It is not very accurate for fairly recent deposits. In recent deposits so little decay has occurred that the error factor (the standard deviation) may be larger than the date obtained. The practical upper limit is about 50,000 years, because so little C-14 remains after almost 9 half-lives that it may be hard to detect and obtain an accurate reading, regardless of the size of the sample" Correct me if I'm wrong, but this isn't bad news, it's just extending the upper range....good news if anything!

Re:This has been known for some time (5, Informative)

DrCJM (827451) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956667)

You're confusing 14C radiometric dating with 13C/12C isotopic ratio dating. There is no decay rate issue for 13C/12C dating - well, except maybe for theoretical proton decay!

Not (really) new news (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956753)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_dating [wikipedia.org]

Read up on it. Carbon Dating has only EVER been good up to 60,000 years, and even then only with extrapolation. Creationists have known this for YEARS and yet many scientists choose to ignore it.

Not at all the news you're thinking of (4, Informative)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956935)

The radiocarbon dating you're talking about, and most of the posters are thinking of, is with the radioactive isotope Carbon-14 against the stable Carbon-12. This is what's used to date more recent carbon-based life.

This is not what this article is talking about. The method in question is using two stable isotopes and apparently wrongly assuming a correlation between the 13/12 ratio in the plants and the atmosphere.

At least someone got it right (3, Interesting)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957049)

I had assumed from the article title that it was about C-14 dating, but TFS wasn't misleading for a change. One of the problems in using C13/C12 ratios is that there are many processes that will enrich or deplete the amount of C13.

29 dimensions of carbon compatibility (5, Funny)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956927)

For next-generationcarbon dating, try eCarbony.com

eHarmo-Christian "only" dating site... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957449)

Ya, that's right, eHarmony is a dating site cover for Chritians only. Try, just try to get a match on their site if you are an atheist. Google it. The guy who started, the Dr. dude, is a Christian conservative. Only Christians need apply. Bah

Re:eHarmo-Christian "only" dating site... (1)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957467)

Everybody knows that. So what? Lots of people are Christians, and there are web sites that cater to them. Get over it.

So much hate... (2, Insightful)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957031)

Why are there so many people in this thread worried about what other people are going to think about this? So many reactions were so similar it seems to be a Pavlovian response.

It is really sad that people who consider themselves to be smarter than others would immediately resort to the grade-school tactic of making fun of others because they are different than you in an attempt to make yourself feel accepted by the group.

I must be new here.

P.S. I'm no creationist or ID advocate.

So much fear... (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957277)

"Why are there so many people in this thread worried about what other people are going to think about this?"

I find it much more insightful "who" is feeling threatened than anything else. I'll refrain from naming the parties but a moment's inspection will clear that up.

Re:So much fear... (4, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957375)

I find it much more insightful "who" is feeling threatened than anything else. I'll refrain from naming the parties but a moment's inspection will clear that up.

Easy answer: extremists on all sides of the debate. The rest of us are more willing to expand what we know....

Re:So much hate... (4, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957307)

Because the creationists have been pushing an untenable decision for quite some time, using extremely dubious tactics. They've achieved a disturbing amount of political success by exploiting people's ignorance of science.

Imagine how much they can accomplish when they can point to scientists actually being wrong about something. Never mind that it does nothing to bolster their position. All they need is to sow doubt about science.

Scientifically, this is merely interesting. Politically, it's an immense hassle on a battle which wastes a huge amount of time with zero scientific merit.

So yeah, you're gonna get some bitching when this sort of thing happens.

Re:So much hate... (0, Troll)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957587)

Ironically the so-called science proponents have used equally dubious tactics. Claiming that the word "theory" degrades evolution's status for example or that teaching religious beliefs alongside science would somehow destroy our poor children's brains.

I believe in math being taught in schools but the fiasco that was the 'new math' makes you wonder if we shouldn't be a little more critical of how everything is taught in schools.

Re:So much hate... (3, Insightful)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957511)

Why are there so many people in this thread worried about what other people are going to think about this?

It matters because any FUD (apparent or real) about science will be exploited by those whose political ideologies diverge with scientific findings. For political ideologues, any apparent negative-sounding news means exploitable FUD. This can effect how education is funded and mandated, among other things. Science unfortunately is not an Ivory Tower sheltered from politicians.

I hate science journalism (4, Informative)

IICV (652597) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957037)

A classic example of science journalists who don't have any idea what they're writing about! Ratios of 13C/12C in ocean sediments are used as a proxy of paleoproductivity and a weak proxy of past temperatures. Generally 18O/16O is a better temperature proxy, and is just as easy to obtain. No one really relies on carbon isotopes for anything, except sometimes methane hydrate release. Carbon dating, like figuring out how old something is, is done with 14C/12C, and it is a well known fact that carbon dating is only useful back to 50,000 years ago. Bad science journalism makes me sad inside.

Re:I hate science journalism (5, Insightful)

Kesch (943326) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957159)

The article at least seemed to have a fairly good grasp of the subject. I guess they may have overstated the implications a bit to make the article seem less boring.

Although, no one even seems to read far enough into the article to come away with that naive misunderstanding. Instead people seem to think this related to carbon-14 dating and going into off-topic discussions about creationism when the off-topic discussion for this article should in-fact be global warming.

Re:I hate science journalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957323)

Only on slashdot will you find somebody arguing about what the off topic discussion should be.

Re:I hate science journalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957601)

No, actually you find that everywhere. It's a common internet past time.

Ever been to digg? reddit? gamefaqs? sa? Anywhere?

Pop sci (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957245)

Write anything that attracts eyeballs and sells magazines or gets hits.

Don't let science or facts stand in the way of business.

Unfortunately this serves as "science" for the unwashed masses where public opinion and being fashionable count more than the quest for "truth".

Re:I hate science journalism (5, Insightful)

rve (4436) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957611)

I agree. Long ago I noticed that journalists are often spectacularly wrong about stuff I happen to know a lot about.

How can I trust them to be right about things I don't know much about?

Seriously flawed indeed (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957161)

When you date up to 4 other atoms at a time, there's something seriously flawed with that.

Seems like a very long time to me (0)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957243)

Back when I did my Palaeontology degree (admittedly this was back in the 80s) radiocarbon dating was only supposed to be accurate to about 80,000 years anyway. If you wanted to measure longer times you needed to use other methods or simply go with stratigraphical dating where you worked on the basis of relative ages based on fast evolving fossil species such as ammonites.

Re:Seems like a very long time to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957493)

Yeah, it's more now thanks to inflation.

Re:Seems like a very long time to me (5, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957751)

That's for Carbon 14 dating. 14C has a half-life of 5,730 years, so after 80,000 years, it's essentially all gone.

This article isn't about dating at all, in that sense. Carbon 13 and Carbon 12 are stable. But plants preferentially incorporate Carbon 12, unless they're growing so fast that they take whatever carbon they get.

So when you see more 13C in some sediment you know that plants are growing faster. When you date the sediment (using other techniques, like uranium dating or argon/argon dating) you know a little bit about the plants growing at the time, and the atmosphere they were growing in.

The title of the Slashdot article is extremely misleading. The article it links to is rather clearer.

4004 BC (1)

argee (1327877) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957251)

Does this mean that the earth was created in 4004 BC, after all?

Ten million years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24957269)

WTF? Doesn't everyone know that the earth is only seven thousand years old? (At least that is what fundies say.)

This is good! (1)

Memetic Hazard (1359123) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957617)

If someone tries to point to this, telling you that it's evidence that all dating techniques are invalid, and that this discovery supports creationism, you can tell them that C14 dating was thought to be effective to 50,000 years, and now it's clearly stated in the article that carbon dating is effective to 150 million years!

Of course, don't point out that these are actually two separate techniques - they won't care anyway.

it's not carbon dating (4, Informative)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#24957683)

Carbon dating is based on the decay rate of Carbon 14, and has a pretty short limit geologically speaking - 70,000 years with enrichment methods, but closer to 50,000 years using traditional counting. It's possible accelerator 14C dating has pushed this slightly - I haven't worked in this field for about a decade.

The tie-in to "dating" in this context is that sediments are deposited over time, and if they're undisturbed you can drill a core that'll give you (theoretically) a record of the 13C/12C ratio over time - but that ratio is not being used for dating AT ALL. The only way you could use the ratio for ersatz dating is if the sediment shows an annual 13C/12C cycle due to annual temperature variations - then you can count the cycles the same way you can count tree rings (BTW 13C/12C in tree rings varies in this same sort of summer/winter - or spring/fall - pattern). In any case, the actual dating of the sediments is usually done using a different, longer-lived, radiometric isotope ration such as you find with rubidium-strontium (That particular isotope pair may not be the best fit for sea sediments; like I said, I've been out of this for a while. We mainly did 13C/12C in trees and 18O/16O in ice cores).

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