Carbon 14 dating in wine
Atmospheric 14C can be reduced by the release of low 14C carbon, because this input dilutes the atmospheric signature. That sounds like a lot but: A few million years sounds like a huge error, but a couple of million years one way or the other is a small error compared with the huge age calculated.
Or in other words, if we have a box, and we don't know how old it is but we know it started with 100 carbon 14 atoms, and we open it and find only 50 carbon 14 atoms and some other stuff, we could say, 'Aha!It must be 1 carbon 14 half-life (or 5730 years) old.' This is the basic idea behind carbon dating. In the atmosphere, cosmic rays smash into normal carbon 12 atoms (in atmospheric carbon dioxide), and create carbon 14 isotopes.So in the real world, looking at a sample like say a bone dug up by an archaeologist, how do we know how much carbon 14 we started with? This process is constantly occurring, and has been for a very long time, so there is a fairly constant ratio of carbon 14 atoms to carbon 12 atoms in the atmosphere.However it is possible, when dating very old rocks for instance, to use longer lived isotopes for dating on a longer time scale.3) The assumption we based this on (that the ratio of carbon 14 in the atmosphere and thus in living organisms is constant) is a decent one for ballpark figures, but this method will not be able to give results accurate to, say, a couple of minutes.