Bristlecone pine and carbon dating

Methuselah Methuselah is a bristlecone pine, and the world's oldest living thing.

His growth rings document nearly 47 centuries of survival.

The older an organism's remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.

So, if we measure the rate of beta decay in an organic sample, we can calculate how old the sample is. Question: Kieth and Anderson radiocarbon-dated the shell of a living freshwater mussel and obtained an age of over two thousand years.

The Bristlecone pine became famous in scientific circles through the work of Dr.

Bristlecones grow in other similar areas and were already the focus of much speculation when Schulman arrived on the scene in 1953.

The C14 will undergo radioactive decay, and after 5730 years, half of it will be gone. So, if we find such a body, the amount of C14 in it will tell us how long ago it was alive. The method doesn't work on things which didn't get their carbon from the air.

This leaves out aquatic creatures, since their carbon might (for example) come from dissolved carbonate rock.

A reported 4900-year-old tree in the Snake Ridge region of Nevada was actually discovered to be only 3000 years old.

Ferguson then started sampling the dead wood found scattered on the southern slopes of the mountains and found that the loose dead wood did not match the existing ring patterns. The actual date may be adjusted for extremely wet years which occurred in the past, as shown by the numerous dry lakes in the desert regions of eastern California and Nevada.

Leave a Reply