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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 (492)
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 (11 days 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
Wk Schwenke (14 days 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
Troy Cook (15 days 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 ⃝ (16 days ago)
Why is Dirk Nowitzki discussing carbon dating again??
Hon Estman (22 days ago)
Is it at all possible that carbon 14 exist in anything a million years old?
Hon Estman (22 days 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 (23 days ago)
Okay I’m a dummy but can someone explain how we know he half life?
Tom Schneider (29 days 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 (1 month ago)
How do they know the actual amount of carbon 14 present in the organism?
BezoomnyBratchny (17 days 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 (1 month 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 (1 month 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 (1 month ago)
Bangalore's Hydro Home (1 month 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 (1 month 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 (1 month 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.
The Jolly Rano (1 month ago)
Omgosh this guy looks like Bruce Banner from the Avenger's movie! He even sounds like him
Indranil Jana (1 month ago)
Critical technology
aTYPICAL (1 month 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 (1 month 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 (1 month 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 (1 month 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 (1 month ago)
If you knew what science is, you wouldn’t be asking for “proof”. Go back to school.
blindwelcome (1 month ago)
wonder why he thinks it a future problem when its going on now?
The River of Faith (1 month 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 (1 month 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 (1 month 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 (2 months ago)
1:29 No need for humans to murder animals for meat.
Alex Thompson (1 month ago)
Swamp Hawk (2 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 (2 months ago)
Thx I have a test tomorrow
Rebel (2 months ago)
Atoms don't disappear through decay process dummy, a decayed atom is simply less radioactive.
Chris Ackley (2 months ago)
Can soler flare effect rate
Anita Tromp (3 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
Michael Ruiz (3 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 (3 months ago)
Anyone here for school?lol
globalswitch17 (3 months ago)
Lol youve gotta be a fuckin moron if you beleive this
Hayden Case (3 months ago)
globalswitch17 So please tell how does this makes him a fuckin moron anyway?
ronald22176 (3 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 (1 month 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 (4 months ago)
This guy has no energy or excitement. He's so boring. Liven up some guy
paul spring (4 months ago)
3:36 explains more than anything before it...
paul spring (4 months ago)
Just for reference: https://youtu.be/NkQtmO-PX2w
Hayden Case (1 month ago)
paul spring Kent is a lair, you know that, right?
paul spring (4 months ago)
Found my new "Go To Sleep" video. Sweeeeet
Clara Huang (4 months ago)
could you do a video on how electron spin resonance dating works
ayesha khan (4 months ago)
so great sir
Anthony Ortiz (4 months ago)
his use of the word roughly worries me. Ive always known accepted timelines are wayyy off.
Mad Michael (4 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 (4 months ago)
Is this stoner science or something? His accent/tone is surprising to me lol.
Kamunu Odomankoma (4 months ago)
Carbon Datin is a lie. No different than gravity.
Kamunu Odomankoma (3 months ago)
Hayden Case A human.
Hayden Case (3 months ago)
So what are you exactly?
Kamunu Odomankoma (3 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 (3 months ago)
So are you a creationist , are you a flat earther or are you both of them?
Kamunu Odomankoma (3 months ago)
Hayden Case U can read can’t u.
Georgi Dimov (4 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 (4 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 (4 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 (4 months ago)
For dry itchy eyes use clear eye... wooooowwww! This guy should do visine commercials
SerElbass (5 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 (5 months ago)
How do scientists account for changing conditions? Surely this would change the decay rate.
D T (5 months ago)
Did I forget to lock my desk mmmm oh yeah Carbon 15
Pollution X (5 months ago)
how do you know how much carbon 14 did it originally have?
FondofHonda (5 months ago)
Could a big solar flare(s) effect the ratio of carbon 12 and 14?
crazy ZONE (5 months ago)
Why don't you add subtitles yar....many may not understand your slang
YourTube (5 months ago)
Awesomely explained carbon dating A small suggestion,just add a subtitle
علي القحطاني (6 months ago)
I can only imagine the amount of math that was needed to calculate how old is earth..
Josué Artaud (6 months ago)
Is the earth 6000 + 18 year old or still 6000?
dakonblackrose (1 month ago)
It's 6051
Tony4nderson (2 months ago)
According to the jewish calendar it's 5779 years 😉
Tuxedo Steve (4 months ago)
Josué Artaud it was never 6000 Years old.
MrBonners (6 months ago)
Dinosaur 'bones' are rock, you can not carbon date rock.
litlikeiz (6 months ago)
Lamia Kerri (7 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 (7 months ago)
3:01 any necrophilliacs about?
Max Derinskiy (7 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 (7 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 (8 months ago)
You were great in the avengers, but I hate your more serious films.
mahmoud tomaize (8 months ago)
woooow this information got explained well,,, i was searching everywhere actually how the first ratio exists before carbon 14 start decaying
ren (8 months ago)
I had to up the speed bc he talks like drunk Hank (Hank at half speed)
Lord of Command (8 months ago)
3:02 I'm trying to date something that lived on Earth within the last 40 years preferably.
SharikaPaprika (8 months ago)
So... are you in any way or form related to It'sAlexClark-?
Louis S (8 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.
Joshua Penner (9 months ago)
Some parts make it sound like he is high XD
Toonz Brah (9 months ago)
Carbon dating is such bullshit. It’s weathering that does it.
Number 16 bus shelter (9 months ago)
so you can date anything that lived on earth in the last 50 000 years?
Renee Trep (9 months ago)
Stuart Law (9 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 (9 months ago)
Anthony Hidcor (9 months 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 (10 months ago)
get some sleep dude
Cedar Poplar (10 months 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!
Sir I.K Elzyy (10 months ago)
So if if I was to die 19 years ago. Would the results come to 19 years roughly the amount
Elizabeth Springh Fortune (10 months ago)
Wow....... I'm just a high school student passing by doing a mini project due tomorrow don't mind me. But wow to comments tho my head already hurts
Extreme Weather (10 months ago)
how do you determine if a carbon atom was once in something alive rather than just a piece of stone?
Ranjit (10 months ago)
Can they use car on 12 to measure older things.?
Object Audio (11 months ago)
If 100,000 years ago the earth had less carbon-14 (we have no idea if it did) then everything before then wasn't as old as it shows when tested??? I'm only saying because I find dinosaurs datings overwhelmingly old
BezoomnyBratchny (10 months ago)
It's irrelevant what the ratio of C14 to C12 was 100,000 years ago because C14 has a half life of 5730 years so it's only measurable to 50,000 years or so and as such, carbon dating isn't used to date anything older than that.
ZEI BEATZ (11 months ago)
what this person explained is exactly the reason why carbon dating does not work. it does not give you the correct date 'roughly is NOT CORRECT' I have this on repeat 3:09. no such thing as a half truth.
BezoomnyBratchny (11 months ago)
Except that the error bars are known and are published alongside the dates.
Jaime Suarez (1 year ago)
Just seeing your face I feel I wanna fall asleep
How to determine half life or what is the process of half life... I don't get it! I think this is a big deal to unlock between creationists and evolutionist! Otherwise, people would listening to a fairy tale or a made up stories both by creationist and evolutionist!
David Humphrys (1 year ago)
Very superficial. Show the actual math and technical process!
Sean Haggard (1 year ago)
I've tried carbon dating. One day I'll find the right one.
J Shysterr (1 month ago)
that's because your name isn't Radio.  Carbon is taken.
Wapper Jaw (1 month ago)
I married my carbon dating ... it kept on lying to me .. divorced carbon dating
SpyderRae (1 month ago)
You've only got 50,000 years though. So get cracking.
Matt Frost (3 months ago)
Remember to be...positive. ;)
Mike Mike (3 months ago)
ArmadilloSusan (1 year ago)
Very funny to read how "science does not work" from people relying on computers, modern medicine and cars to do most everything they do.
taddow332 (3 days ago)
Question though how long did it take you to rewind kent hovinds video over and over again to perfectly regurgitate all his examples??? Pretty spot on.
taddow332 (3 days ago)
+Maria Ayala kent hovind??? Is that you???? Lol nah just someone hanging on your every word in your "Kent Hovind wins debate against bill nye" youtube video. Sigh this video is literally talking of the problems with and future issues with carbon dating....and here you are attempting to dicredit the practice.....lol sorry i had to
IThinkWithMy Dick (2 months ago)
Christurds are INFINITELY hypocritical. They believe PROVABLY FALSE BULLSHIT like the bible that ancient goat fuckers made up, but then they SHIT all over science & engineering & technology.
Maria Ayala (11 months ago)
This isn't science. It not an observable fact, carbon dating is based almost completely on assumptions. Suppose you walk into a room, and see a burning candle on the table and I ask you the question when was it lit? Okay so lets do some empirical science which is things we can test and measure and observe and test. Not theoretical. Empirical, we can measure and weight it. 1. lets measure the heigh of the candle, suppose its 7 inches tall. Who can tell me when it was lit? 2. Lets measure the rate of burn, lets say 1" / hour. When was it lit? You're gonna have a hard time telling me unless you're willing to make some assumptions. How tall was it when it started? Heres an answer, you don't know. Has It always burned at the same rate? No idea. Say you find a fossil in the dirt and you can measure how much C-14 is in it. You can measure accurately, and can measure how fast its decaying. Thats just like measuring the height of the candle and how fast its burning. Now when did that animal die?? You don't have a clue. Unless you assume the rate of decay has always been the same, and you assume the c-14 it had when it was alive is the same what we have today. Living penguins carbon dated 8,000 years old. Stupid. Its still alive! Shells from living snail dated 27,000 years old. Thats stupid he's still alive. Yeah they're slow but 27,000 years he'd be dead. One part of a mammoth is 29,500 years old, and another part 44,000. Now you can probably see how funny I find it to read the comments of people talking about how evolution is a fact. Its stupid. (Now copy pasted this to the first comment I replied to, to about 3 different replies). Computers, medicine, cars, engineering, yes I agree that is true science! Evolution & Big Bang is not. Its stupid, and a religion. A stupid one.
Jimmy John (1 year ago)
Kind of had my interest before he went into a subtle diatribe of global warming bullshit.
Thor Kampmann (1 year ago)
not actually explaining how to measure the ratios of c14-c12. bad video
James Steele (1 year ago)
You would need to avarage the amount of carbon 14 found in spacific plant life while it would have still been alive, then once this has been agreed apone for that type of organic material.....Then you would know roughlty through the examples how old somthing was, how much C14 would originally be present in the plant life at the time vs how much is left in it today.... But then how can you know for sure what rate it's decaying at unless the condions where always constant for each sample? Also you would need to multiply the rate of decay knowing how much cabbon is released within the scope of testing it in experiment ...so it has me wondering how full proof the readings round be, probably not as muc has we're lead to believe, but that dosn't mean you can take a leap and say the earth is only 6000 years old either so I guess it's all speculation and supposition on both sides and we're back to square one, nobody can say with absolute certainty and accuracy how long earth and humans have been here
So where do you take something to get it carbon-dated?
Dr. Wier (7 months ago)
Most churches can help you with that. Otherwise go to a mosque.
Torpedo Tekkers (9 months ago)
Ima carbon date yo momma
Jay J (1 year ago)
I thought we used carbon dating to date things over 50 thousand years old. So how are we dating things back 300 or 100 million years back?
Ricahrd P'Brien (1 year ago)
Various radiometric dating methods. There is not enough of the carbon isotope left to get an accurate reading for specimens much older than 50 thousand years.
Ankur Goyal (1 year ago)
pyramids and books were not alive - how do you date them .. the stone can be 5000 years old, constructed 1000 years back, but the date will show 3500 years - messing up real history?
Ji&Jy J-J (1 year ago)
How do they know that half carbon 14 is 5730 years old?
Radiometric and carbon dating *only work* when it confirms my religious beleifs!
BoMwarriorVlog (1 year ago)
My own question about reliability of carbon dating: How do "they" know that the right sample is tested everytime? I watched a #Unearthed episode recently on TV (the #ScienceChannel) about #Stonehenge and the tester commented that if the wrong thing was picked up by the test (like soil or certain ash) then it could throw off the results by hundreds of years. I'm not against the science, but wondering if scientists are being close-minded to the fact that some things are more recent than we all think? And also for strict-creationists, if things could be a little later than they think?
Mr Obvious (11 months ago)
Why do you assume the sample would be skewed older? If you have a sample older than 50,000 and you introduce carbon 14 to it, the sample will appear younger than it actually is, and the smallest amount would say it died at least within the last 50000 years which would be way off. To make something appear older you would have to change the rate of decay or the rate carbon 14 is produced in the atmosphere, or somehow remove carbon 14 from the sample(most likely contamination problem). Ice cores are one way, among several, to double check the amount of carbon in the atmosphere from a long time ago since ice doesn't eat carbon so the atmosphere is the only way for it to get there, and they only need to go back 50000 years as it doesn't matter after that point anyway since all of the carbon 14 will be decayed. Obviously, you need to figure out the rate of snowfall to know how deep is what age to compare, so alone this method is not enough but we have several ways and they must be cross-checked for consistency. Close-minded? I don't know about that. Scientists are defensive about people obviously making up reasons to say it doesn't work, but few if any real scientists(not YouTube scientists) will say it can't be contaminated. I think what makes scientists so defensive is when someone uses results that are very likely contaminated to say that the science is wrong, kind of a cheap shot. Contamination is actually the reasoning scientists usually provide when we get results that seem illogical(from a scientists perspective). Like testing dinosaur bones that we suspect to be very very old... millions of years. If you have it tested, all the carbon 14 will be decayed but there might be protective residue on it if say, it was in a museum, not cleaned properly, or not sampled properly. That will force invalid results due to the carbon in the protective resin. This really happened, and it's common to hear this dinosaur bone argument. Frankly, I don't know why creationists care because they can still say God created it. Only matters to me when they want it to be 6000 years old or something seemingly ridiculous, and that causes problems with more than just carbon dating.
MrPorkncheese (1 year ago)
A lot of assumptions like i heard the carbon 14 content in the atmosphere is 0.000075%. Now the stuff gets on plants and animals eat them. So we have to now assume that carbon 14 is in every part of the body at the same 0.000075%. From our liver, blood, bones, everything. Big assumption. And the half life. Are we just to take your word for it. That figure is not gospel. Then you have the factors in which these fossils where in, what they where in contact with, etc. But the funniest thimg is if it is only limited to 60,000 years then how are these biological philosiphers claiming modern humans are 200,000 years old and the earth is 6.6 billion years. How?
James Sanchez (1 year ago)
Excellent video, really liked your one liner at the end!
Torpedo Tekkers (9 months ago)
it sucked
StarCrush 3000 (1 year ago)
Thanks vlog bros!!!

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