Controversy over carbon dating

well, us.‘The great breakthrough in Quaternary archaeology was radiocarbon dating,’ Walker says.Developed by Willard Libby in the 1940s – and winning him the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1960 – the basic principle of radiocarbon dating is simple: living things exchange carbon with their environment until they die.Members of the Paleochronology group presented their findings at the 2012 Western Pacific Geophysics Meeting in Singapore, August 13-17, a conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS).Since dinosaurs are thought to be over 65 million years old, the news is stunning - and more than some can tolerate.Researchers have found a reason for the puzzling survival of soft tissue and collagen in dinosaur bones - the bones are younger than anyone ever guessed.Carbon-14 (C-14) dating of multiple samples of bone from 8 dinosaurs found in Texas, Alaska, Colorado, and Montana revealed that they are only 22,000 to 39,000 years old.Though originally a field reserved for archaeologists, physical scientists like Walker are showing that they also have crucial contributions to make.

At death, the exchange stops, and the carbon-14 then decays with a known half-life, which enables scientists to calculate the time of death.

However, it quickly became clear that something wasn’t quite right.

‘As is always the case, a new dating technique comes along and everyone latches onto it,’ explains Walker.

‘Dating is absolutely crucial, it underpins everything,’ says Michael Walker.

Based at the University of Wales Trinity St David, he has devoted his career to studying the Quaternary period – the last 2.6 million years and the so-called ‘age of humans’.