Carbon dating a rock
So, anything more than about 50,000 years old probably can't be dated at all.If you hear of a carbon dating up in the millions of years, you're hearing a confused report. Second, they rarely contain any of the original carbon.And, we can date things that have been dated by some other method.Historians don't have "right answers" for really old things.Thus, the ratio of argon-40 and potassium-40 and radiogenic calcium-40 to potassium-40 in a mineral or rock is a measure of the age of the sample.The calcium-potassium age method is seldom used, however, because of the great abundance of nonradiogenic calcium in minerals or rocks, which masks the presence of radiogenic calcium.
In short, unless you have evidence to the contrary, you should assume that most of the carbon in a fossil is from contamination, and is not originally part of the fossil. The nuclear tests of the 1950's created a lot of C14.
Gerald Aardsma explains, "Radiocarbon is not used to date the age of rocks or to determine the age of the earth.
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Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work! This dating method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium-40 to radioactive argon-40 in minerals and rocks; potassium-40 also decays to calcium-40.