Radiocarbon dating diamonds

It was the first absolute scientific method ever invented: that is to say, the technique was the first to allow a researcher to determine how long ago an organic object died, whether it is in context or not.

Shy of a date stamp on an object, it is still the best and most accurate of dating techniques devised.

Reimer and colleagues point out that Int Cal13 is just the latest in calibration sets, and further refinements are to be expected.

Radiocarbon dating is one of the best known archaeological dating techniques available to scientists, and the many people in the general public have at least heard of it.But there are many misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is.Beginning in the 1990s, a coalition of researchers led by Paula J.Reimer of the CHRONO Centre for Climate, the Environment and Chronology, at Queen's University Belfast, began building an extensive dataset and calibration tool that they first called CALIB.We should see some interesting results in the very near future.

This sharp-edged octahedral diamond crystal nestles in kimberlite, the rock that brought it to the earth’s surface. Not merely for their intrinsic beauty, but for the fundamental information locked within them.

Given relatively pristine circumstances, a radiocarbon lab can measure the amount of radiocarbon accurately in a dead organism for as long as 50,000 years ago; after that, there's not enough C14 left to measure. Carbon in the atmosphere fluctuates with the strength of earth's magnetic field and solar activity.

You have to know what the atmospheric carbon level (the radiocarbon 'reservoir') was like at the time of an organism's death, in order to be able to calculate how much time has passed since the organism died.

Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.

Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.

Since that time, CALIB, now renamed Int Cal, has been refined several times--as of this writing (January 2017), the program is now called Int Cal13.