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How Carbon Dating Works

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In the movies, scientists use “carbon dating” to determine the age of ancient artifacts and dinosaur bones. But what is the real science behind carbon dating, and how does it work? Learn more at HowStuffWorks.com: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/carbon-14.htm Share on Facebook: https://goo.gl/Vqhyah Share on Twitter: https://goo.gl/gN9pcu Subscribe: http://goo.gl/ZYI7Gt Visit our site: http://www.brainstuffshow.com SOURCES: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/carbon-14.htm/printable http://paleobiology.si.edu/geotime/main/foundation_dating3.html
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Text Comments (582)
Joseph Jones (20 hours ago)
Can someone help me? Where does the half-life of carbon-14 number = 5730years come from? Everything else has been explained except for the base number which it all needs to actually work xD I’m confused lol
whatthe (1 day ago)
How was the half life calculated? How wold you know what was the 100% amount of carbon 14 in a fossil? Also what was the carbon 12 to carbon 14 ratio 50k years ago? has this ratio been same for millions of years?
Shubham Rai (2 days ago)
well sir
Salman Machwal (5 days ago)
Nuclear medicine
teodelfuego (11 days ago)
I love how scientifically illiterate commenters are so dismissive of scientists in comments they could only make using the technology afforded them by scientists. "Science is bullshit! I know better than them! Now, time to charge the lithium-ion battery in my hand held computer/phone/camera/GOS device."
jiminology (11 days ago)
i still don't understand dude I'm about to have an early life crisis
Blake Marb (13 days ago)
Wow!!! I wish just Like Carbon Dating, i could access information from a woman with whom im Woman Dating..😊😊😊
Liontari Music (14 days ago)
3:02 so carbon dating is gonna help me find a potential mate's information. i feel a little odd about the "long dead for thousands of years" part but hey, never judge a book by its cover.
Chieko Hoki (17 days ago)
I think I'm dyslexic. I totally read Brian stuff, and then he said his name was Josh. I was like "why would you false advertise your name and then rat yourself out, it's such a needless lie for no gain...."
Paul McMullan (19 days ago)
So why aren't dinosaur bones being carbon dated when soft tissue in dinosaur bones is being discovered all over the world. That last bit about atomic bombs and post industrial revolution atmospheric carbon was a totally fake attempt to distract clear thinking individuals from the facts.
Garrick Dean Lucasan (22 days ago)
Carbon-14 has a half life of 5730years. in 5730 year, half Life 3 will release. Half Life 3 confirimed
Keith Lucas (25 days ago)
Radiometric dating is flawed because of the assumption of decay rates remaining fixed. Evidence for the period of accelerated decay is found in zircon crystals. Zircon crystals in granite contain radioactive uranium-238, which decays into lead over time. As the uranium decays, helium is produced in the crystals. Helium escapes from the crystals at a known, measurable rate. If those rocks were over a billion years old, as evolutionists claim, the helium should have leaked out of the rock. The presence of lots of helium in the crystals is evidence in support of a young earth. Adding the red/blue shift in our sun and the absolute fine tuned solar system we live in invalides any evolution and is suggested by Stephen Hawkings. There is a list of atheists who also support this and are leaning toward this planet "being seeded" by "outside sources". Looking at the discoveries of Ron Wyatt, I'd say the "culprit" that did this has been found.
Hyun Doh (25 days ago)
there are too many variables in Carbon dating and based on weak assumptions. it's not exact.
Michael Fitzgerald (27 days ago)
No. This does not explain it at all. It only gives the easy-to-find outlines of the principles involved.
Andre Lypher (28 days ago)
He didn't even explain anything I call bullshit
Sometime does work ,sometime doesnt work: they have founded C 14 in the dinos bones
IMAGINARY VIEWS (1 month ago)
How do we know that the C12 and C14 atoms ratio in the atmosphere is same since the past years ?
Nicky J (1 month ago)
I believe in carbon dating, but it would be best to only date carbon 12. Carbon 14 is too unstable and eventually changes form - no-one wants such a complicated relationship. 😊
Alexis Boyce (1 month ago)
If you turn the speed to 1.25 he sounds like a normal human talk
Wayne Renee (1 month ago)
Isn't it an assumption that carbon 14 has been the same number in the atmosphere for thousands of years? How long have we measured it?
Wayne Renee (1 month ago)
+BezoomnyBratchny How much c14 was in the atmosphere 4000 years ago?
BezoomnyBratchny (1 month ago)
No. It is calibrated with various other methods at different points in history.
Edward Hayes (1 month ago)
You are forgiven. LOL!
swag Ponga (1 month ago)
I am from India
Kieran Donnelly (2 months ago)
I want to know how scientists date things that cant be carbon dated, like how they think a gamma ray burst destroyed the ozone 400 million years ago etc, i cant find any explantion anywhere?
The sound of the chalk is the only reason I cannot watch this. I hate that sounds. It causes me to spaz out.
Jøshüa 115 (2 months ago)
Hey Science man If carbon 14 has a life time of 5730 years then why Did we find carbon 14 in dinosaur bones That are supposed to be 65 million years old Just seems like more reasons to believe in a Young earth
BezoomnyBratchny (1 month ago)
Can you provide a single example of an uncontaminated dinosaur fossil that contains carbon 14?
Wk Schwenke (2 months ago)
And that is why carbon dating is unreliable... this guy makes so many assumptions... and even this guy was correct, if the entire world was made of carbon 14, it would be all gone within a million years... yet they claim to find carbon 14 in dinosaurs they claim to be 50 million years old... SMH
Master Pole (1 month ago)
+Wk Schwenke Show me where ANY scientists said we found carbon 14 in a dinosaur bone. SHOW ME. You won't, because it's not true. Nobody thinks that, that is a strawman fallacy.
Troy Cook (2 months ago)
I've always had this one feeling... the way creationists have faith in creation it is equal to the same Faith scientists have to eventually put in science. Either way regardless of what side of the line you're on , both parties eventually have to believe and use faith. Who's to say that even before scientists and scientific theory etc...(oh Let's just say a hundred thousand years ago.), that during just one of the global Ice Age events( among many other events of the like) etc, that the atmosphere of the Earth wasnt completely different or even a smidgen off than it is today. Cuz the slightest difference would change the entire set of criteria for your scientific tests. And in order for science to be 100% factual then your tests need to be 100% untainted or uncontaminated. No scientist in good conscience could say or even prove that. And there's a scientific fact right there! So it really doesn't matter what side of the line you're on... Either way eventually you have to believe or have faith in the stance you take.
Sarcasm ⃝ (2 months ago)
Why is Dirk Nowitzki discussing carbon dating again??
Hon Estman (2 months ago)
Is it at all possible that carbon 14 exist in anything a million years old?
Hon Estman (2 months ago)
Don't plants actually grow faster and put out more oxygen when exposed to greater amounts of CO2. What I mean is that if you put a plant in a room and upped the CO2 , wouldn't that plant grow faster ? If so, do you think the atmosphere will still be jacked up by the extra CO2 that humankind generates from their activities?
Sarah Poynter (3 months ago)
Okay I’m a dummy but can someone explain how we know he half life?
Tom Schneider (3 months ago)
Not at all, you only fall asleep if you loose interest in the issue. Perhaps you were looking for entertainment instead of knowledge
Miss Ambivert (3 months ago)
How do they know the actual amount of carbon 14 present in the organism?
BezoomnyBratchny (2 months ago)
An accelerator mass spectronomy machine counts them. Carbon ions are emitted from the sample which the machine then separates into C14 atoms and C12 atoms. It does this by removing electrons from them so that they go from having a negative charge to a positive charge. They are then accelerated around a magnet. Because the C14 atoms weigh more than C12 atoms, they come out the other end at a different angle to them so that they can be counted separately from the C12 ones.
Payton Pryor (3 months ago)
The atmosphere of earth has changed over time, wouldn't the rate of production of carbon 14 and 12 atoms have changed over time? Sure they are formed at a constant rate now, the atmosphere is relatively stable now; the atmosphere has still changed slowly but still relatively dramatically over time.
Billy Lucius (3 months ago)
Look at the discovery of the body of King Richard III of England. We know exactly the day he died (22 August 1485) at the Battle of Bosworth Field yet Carbon 14 was some 70 years off. I would think that such a discovery would calibrate the calculations but nobody seems to care.
Austin (3 months ago)
https://youtu.be/59mRZ1Vj8ZU
Bangalore's Hydro Home (3 months ago)
This feels like an actor delivering his lines.. Not knowing what it is... But Josh, I'm a big fan of how stuff podcast man,
Midas Haltzern (3 months ago)
Knowing this it sounds ridiculous that dinosaur fossils are carbon dated. There are too many factors in the environment and over time that can mess with the calculation. The soil composition around the bones, the atmosphere etc. How are we supposed to believe these guys?
Hayden Case (3 months ago)
Midas Haltzern Well to be fair here, dinosaurs fossils are dated with other methods such as potassium 40 and uranium -lead dating, so fossils like these can't be carbon date, that's why there are other methods.
Erdindar (3 months ago)
Omgosh this guy looks like Bruce Banner from the Avenger's movie! He even sounds like him
Indranil Jana (3 months ago)
Critical technology
aTYPICAL (3 months ago)
how can they say that the ratio of 14-c and other carbons is constant as long as the organism is alive and eating, when there are thousand and thousands of variables out there that may affect the result, this is a pretty baseless opinion, I can't believe how carbon 14 dating got accepted in today's science when it's results are nowhere close to accurate
Rosanna Miller (3 months ago)
How do you KNOW that about the Carbons? Carbon has a half life of 5730 years? You people are the sheep with a blind faith. Just because you Appeal to Authority it does not make you Intelligent. It makes you gullible hypocrites. Because for all of my life the Atheists have accused the believers of blind faith when they are the ones who have blind faith. Guess what? I can memorize a bunch of random numbers based on nothing concrete and regurgitate them forever, but without proof to back up the so called stats/facts (random numbers are not proof of the age of something), what I repeat still is not true. Even if everyone agrees with me. I am not calling you a liar yet, I just want you to show the proof for your claims. And you turning and expecting me to prove otherwise further shows how dishonest you really are! And shame on you.
J Ovesen (3 months ago)
Rosanna Miller Of course I demand proof that the thing of which you speak exists. Why wouldn’t I? Wait, you think I am being a hypocrite? Right? Science is not about “proving things”. Science creates models that *explains* that which have been observed. Science doesn’t claim evolution exist. We observed that life evolves, and science seeks to explain why. You claim a god exists. Period. You can’t tell the difference?
Rosanna Miller (3 months ago)
+J Ovesen right. Yet you demand proof of God. You go seek God because your science isn't saving you from Hell.
J Ovesen (3 months ago)
If you knew what science is, you wouldn’t be asking for “proof”. Go back to school.
blindwelcome (3 months ago)
wonder why he thinks it a future problem when its going on now?
The River of Faith (3 months ago)
Do you know of the single scientific dating method used for accurately dating any object? If so, what is it, and how does it work? I know what it is. It’s quite simple. Do you know?
Noobist (4 months ago)
yall know that volcanos spew many times more carbon than any atomic bomb ever made right? so, modern human activity probably had little to no effect on the amount of carbon in the air.
J Ovesen (3 months ago)
That’s a non sequitur.. How does it follow that just because a volcano pumps out carbon, anthropomorphic carbon has no effect? If humans were carbon neutral, would that make the carbon from the volcano more or less of a problem?
IThinkWithMy Dick (4 months ago)
1:29 No need for humans to murder animals for meat.
Alex Thompson (4 months ago)
Yes
Swamp Hawk (4 months ago)
When I first read the title, my stupid brain thought this was a new way to meet singles, and I just hadn't heard of it yet.
Sara Saliaga (4 months ago)
Thx I have a test tomorrow
Rebel (4 months ago)
Atoms don't disappear through decay process dummy, a decayed atom is simply less radioactive.
Chris Ackley (5 months ago)
Can soler flare effect rate
Anita Tromp (5 months ago)
So if I keep eating old fossils and they carbon date me one day t's going to show i'm millions of years old? :P Gonna start right now
Vasto Lorde (1 day ago)
Actually the opposite, pretty sure the more carbon 14 you have, the more recent you are. Shit you might have discovered time travel
Michael Ruiz (5 months ago)
" Nitrogen becomes carbon."  If there was less nitrogen in the atmosphere  for any real length  time would that change test results?
Ravi Bassett (5 months ago)
Anyone here for school?lol
globalswitch17 (5 months ago)
Lol youve gotta be a fuckin moron if you beleive this
Hayden Case (5 months ago)
globalswitch17 So please tell how does this makes him a fuckin moron anyway?
ronald22176 (6 months ago)
then how did the fossils end up million years before, if the carbon dating just have a limit of only thousands of years?
Alex Thompson (4 months ago)
I think they use other dating methods but it seems strange since ink, dino blood cells and soft tissue have been found in things dated dozens of millions of years ago.
Leanne Fresquez (6 months ago)
This guy has no energy or excitement. He's so boring. Liven up some guy
paul spring (6 months ago)
3:36 explains more than anything before it...
paul spring (6 months ago)
Just for reference: https://youtu.be/NkQtmO-PX2w
Hayden Case (3 months ago)
paul spring Kent is a lair, you know that, right?
paul spring (6 months ago)
Found my new "Go To Sleep" video. Sweeeeet
Clara Huang (6 months ago)
could you do a video on how electron spin resonance dating works
ayesha khan (6 months ago)
so great sir
Anthony Ortiz (6 months ago)
his use of the word roughly worries me. Ive always known accepted timelines are wayyy off.
Mad Michael (6 months ago)
That's all good but how do scientists measure these things? What machines or equipment do they use to find what you said? Can I go around and start carbon date things if I know more details? (it's a rhetorical question)
adankseason ADS (6 months ago)
Is this stoner science or something? His accent/tone is surprising to me lol.
Kamunu Odomankoma (6 months ago)
Carbon Datin is a lie. No different than gravity.
Kamunu Odomankoma (5 months ago)
Hayden Case A human.
Hayden Case (5 months ago)
So what are you exactly?
Kamunu Odomankoma (5 months ago)
Hayden Case I’m not an anythin. I only deal with observable, provable facts. I am not a flat earther, but I do know that I am not a believer of the factless theory that we are on some basketball spinnin a million miles an hour thru space after a random explosion exploded for no reason out of nothingness that proceeded to create everythin in perfect order. That’s what I know I am not. Anythin else?
Hayden Case (5 months ago)
So are you a creationist , are you a flat earther or are you both of them?
Kamunu Odomankoma (5 months ago)
Hayden Case U can read can’t u.
Georgi Dimov (6 months ago)
It takes faith to claim that the meteorites have no other source of half-dead material, an interesting religion is evolution. Also, C14 is not the same amount as it was 50 years ago and it was even less than 5,000 years ago, so finding a dead animal and not knowing how much C14 there was when it died because you do not know when it died how you calculate it without faith and imagination? Equilibrium of C14 is not yet on the planet and is still growing.
Jake Gopita (6 months ago)
honestly, i don't get it what carbon dating means because the speaker is not good at all in explaining, it should be clearly w/ concrete example not just 50, 000 yrs what about the Dino which live million yrs ago....lol.. he should have comparison or model to visualize the concept of carbon dating...
The Muslim Dude (7 months ago)
What if the carbon 14 dating evidences were currupted in the past too? duo to natural geothermal activity or by other means?
rich lopez (7 months ago)
For dry itchy eyes use clear eye... wooooowwww! This guy should do visine commercials
SerElbass (7 months ago)
So... is it inaccurate to predict the times of the dinosaurs? Or is there another method? Just a noob with questions!
Sean-Justin Lattimore (7 months ago)
How do scientists account for changing conditions? Surely this would change the decay rate.
D T (7 months ago)
Did I forget to lock my desk mmmm oh yeah Carbon 15
Pollution X (7 months ago)
how do you know how much carbon 14 did it originally have?
FondofHonda (7 months ago)
Could a big solar flare(s) effect the ratio of carbon 12 and 14?
crazy ZONE (8 months ago)
Why don't you add subtitles yar....many may not understand your slang
YourTube (8 months ago)
Awesomely explained carbon dating A small suggestion,just add a subtitle
علي القحطاني (8 months ago)
I can only imagine the amount of math that was needed to calculate how old is earth..
Josué Artaud (8 months ago)
Is the earth 6000 + 18 year old or still 6000?
dakonblackrose (3 months ago)
It's 6051
Tony4nderson (4 months ago)
According to the jewish calendar it's 5779 years 😉
Tuxedo Steve (6 months ago)
Josué Artaud it was never 6000 Years old.
MrBonners (9 months ago)
Dinosaur 'bones' are rock, you can not carbon date rock.
litlikeiz (9 months ago)
what
Lamia Kerri (9 months ago)
It's useless to answer questions asked by kids here. They still believe in fairy tales. Complex facts explained by science need higher intelligence to understand them. So weaker minds, just go and read your fairy tales and stop asking questions on basic stuff here. xD
Nicholas Coker (9 months ago)
3:01 any necrophilliacs about?
Max Derinskiy (9 months ago)
Sounds like it works but how do you know those carbon fossils weren’t contaminated at some point with other substances that may have delayed or sped up the carbon decay in that plant or animal?
Michael Harto (9 months ago)
if a time traveler brought back an item from the past, the carbon dating of the item would not include the time span from which he took the item in the past to the present, right?
Good info!!!
Sick Boy (10 months ago)
You were great in the avengers, but I hate your more serious films.
Vasto Lorde (1 day ago)
??
mahmoud tomaize (10 months ago)
woooow this information got explained well,,, i was searching everywhere actually how the first ratio exists before carbon 14 start decaying
ren (10 months ago)
I had to up the speed bc he talks like drunk Hank (Hank at half speed)
Lord of Command (10 months ago)
3:02 I'm trying to date something that lived on Earth within the last 40 years preferably.
【shria】 (11 months ago)
So... are you in any way or form related to It'sAlexClark-?
Louis S (11 months ago)
I was arguing with my friends, drunk, about evolution and religion deities. I tried to explain that the Earth has been proven to be more than 6000 years old, referencing carbon dating as tangible evidence but they said; "Have you tried using carbon dating yourself? The Government tells you what you want to hear". Then they referenced shadow government(?). How can I respond to that lol.
MrFinnishbasterd (1 month ago)
By getting new friends ha
Joshua Penner (11 months ago)
Some parts make it sound like he is high XD
Toonz Brah (11 months ago)
Carbon dating is such bullshit. It’s weathering that does it.
Number 16 bus shelter (11 months ago)
so you can date anything that lived on earth in the last 50 000 years?
Renee Trep (11 months ago)
YOU CAN'T USE RADIOCARBON (c14) DATING ON DINO BONES
Stuart Law (11 months ago)
No evidence no examples you can say it does if you can't show how you figured this out you haven't proved your rule
miss carbo (11 months ago)
👀
Anthony Hidcor (1 year ago)
Humans cannot tell how old a piece of rock is, get over it.... Science is cool but is also a great tool used to fool the ignorants
Kasper (1 year ago)
get some sleep dude
Cedar Poplar (1 year ago)
In other words - scientist don't really have a clue other than their big egos?! well, I guess we all go back to square one. specially for suckers like me!

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