Why is potassium argon dating useful for dating hominids

In order to find the length of time since the candle was lit we would be forced to make some assumptions.We would, obviously, have to assume that the candle has always burned at the same rate, and assumes an initial height of the candle. Similarly, scientists do not know that the carbon-14 decay rate has been constant.Willard Libby invented the carbon dating technique in the early 1950's.The amount of carbon 14 in the atmosphere today (about .0000765%), is assumed there would be the same amount found in living plants or animals since the plants breath CO2 and animals eat plants. Since sunlight causes the formation of C-14 in the atmosphere, and normal radioactive decay takes it out, there must be a point where the formation rate and the decay rate equalizes. Let me illustrate: If you were trying to fill a barrel with water but there were holes drilled up the side of the barrel, as you filled the barrel it would begin leaking out the holes.One gram of carbon from living plant material causes a Geiger counter to click 16 times per minute as the C-14 decays.

Let me first explain how carbon dating works and then show you the assumptions it is based on.

An illustration may help: Imagine you found a candle burning in a room, and you wanted to determine how long it was burning before you found it.

You could measure the present height of the candle (say, seven inches) and the rate of burn (say, an inch per hour).

Just this one fact totally upsets data obtained by C-14 dating.

The carbon in the atmosphere normally combines with oxygen to make carbon dioxide (CO2).

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They do not know that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is constant. In addition to the above assumptions, dating methods are all subject to the geologic column date to verify their accuracy.

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