I know that the upper limit of radiocarbon dating is typically about 60,000 years, but how many radiocarbon dates have actually been measured? As of October 2015, how many $^{14}\ce C$ (radiocarbon) measurements have been made worldwide, how many have been calibrated by historic dates, and what proportion of measurements have yielded inconsistent results?

  • $\begingroup$ You get 360000 results using "carbon 14 dating" on Google Scholar. Definitely more than "few". $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Oct 29, 2015 at 6:01
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    $\begingroup$ Why not just ask the question without mentioning creationists? $\endgroup$
    – Matt Hall
    Oct 29, 2015 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ @userLTK - The half-life of carbon 14 is 5730 years, not 57,000 years. 57000 years is almost ten half-lives, so about 0.1% of the original C14 atoms are left after 57000 years. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2015 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen, oops. You're right. Should I delete? $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Oct 29, 2015 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ @DikranMarsupial Young Earth proponents claim a 6000ya Earth, so radiocarbon dating is relevant too. $\endgroup$
    – Eubie Drew
    Oct 30, 2015 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


How many have been validated by historic calibration, and what proportion (if any) yielded inconsistent results?

Often with an item that they want tested, a specific date isn't available so calibration isn't possible, but calibration can be done when dates are known. Tree rings are most common and (though I've not read of this being done), samples from dead bodies from a specific battle or disease outbreak where a date of death is known. Article here and here.

The calibration curve represents changes in the amount of C-14 present in the atmosphere which is also a factor. There wouldn't be a charted curve if calibration hadn't been done quite extensively (see 2nd article above).

There's some room for bacterial or other contamination, especially with older objects, and contamination has lead some inconsistent results but that's not because the theory isn't sound but because of miss-handling.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm fully aware of the methods, both for radiocarbon dating and for calibration. The question is about the actual statistics of measurement - how many, as opposed to the claim of just 'a few'? $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2015 at 3:37

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