Carbon Dating and What If We Were Wrong

A while ago, I talked about inaccuracies in carbon dating, which are the result of radiation contamination.  It is hard to forget the Chelyabinsk meteor. About 20 meters in diameter, the world got to see video of this meteor as it soared over Russia in 2013, before exploding above the earth in the Chelyabinsk Oblansk in the Ural Mountains.

It entered Earth’s atmosphere at a low angle, which is why video of it is so prevalent, it was close to the surface of our Earth.  Since the meteor didn’t make impact, there was no impact crater to study.  However, we do know where it exploded, and we know that it brought some radiation with it.

Space is brimming with radiation and anything in space for very long, becomes contaminated with radiation.  That radiation contamination is part of the reason scientists believe The Tunguska Event was a meteor that exploded over the Earth.  Tunguska happened during the early Soviet Years, but it happened in Siberia, and no one saw it.  Something caused part of a forest to fall down, there was also high levels of radiation contamination to the soil and trees.  Tunguska and Chelyabinsk were not extinction level events, but there have been a few of those…

In the Southwestern US there are several large impact craters from meteors that were possibly extinction level events.  There’s another on the Yucatan Peninsula that many think helped bring about the end of the dinosaurs.  So far, we have found large impact craters on every continent.  We don’t use carbon dating on objects found in areas where we know nuclear weapons testing has taken place because we know that the carbon dating will be off.  Yet we don’t apply this same principle to areas with large impact craters.

Here’s the thing, if an in air meteor explosion, which does send shock waves to the surface of the earth, can cause radiation contamination, in those areas, why are we still using carbon dating when most of the earth has been pelted with space radiation as a result of meteor impacts? I know it seems kind of out there, but part of the problem with an extinction level meteor is that it causes nuclear winter (so much debris gets kicked into the air from the impact, that the sun is blotted out for a time, causing a severe cold spell and drop in surface temperatures of Earth).  A meteor of that size, has to have some serious radiation to it.  Also, if it can cause a nuclear winter to happen across the entire surface of Earth, why wouldn’t some of that radiation contamination also join the debris in the air only to fall back to Earth and create more radiation contamination in other spots, thousands of miles away from the impact point?

We’ll use the one in Yucatan as our example, because I know more about it than other impact craters.  The suspected size of the meteor was between 5 and 10 miles in diameter.  It left a crater that is amazingly beautiful and terrifying.

The problem is while we can estimate the size, we can’t estimate the radiation impact it had.  I mean we have carbon dated things in recent years that have ended up being so off, it looked as if it were from the future, one of them a hunk of wood from Nova Scotia, Canada.  I don’t know a ton about Canada, but I am fairly certain that Nova Scotia is not Proving Ground Zero for Canada’s nuclear arsenal.  So, that chunk of wood had to be exposed to radiation from US nuclear tests which took place several thousands of miles south and west, because we weren’t exactly checking them out on the Eastern seaboard.

I suppose the exposure could have come from the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which is a whole lot closer to Nova Scotia than Nevada, but even then, it’s still a considerable distance for radiation fall out to spike the level of Carbon 14 in a chunk of wood, the radioactive isotope measured in carbon dating.

However, what if we’ve been wrong about it all along.  I mean if we have learned anything in the past couple of decades, it’s that humans get things wrong all the time.  Keeping that in mind, consider the Piri Reis Map.  It dates from around 1513, theoretically, but that’s a map maker thing that I’ll discuss in a moment.  The Piri Reis map shows Antarctica free of ice.  And satellite images of Antartica in the last decade have shown the map to be incredibly accurate.

While we know the date of the Piri Reis map, give or take a few decades, we don’t know what it was copied from.  Map makers often copied maps from other sources, so it is unlikely that Piri Reis was the first or only map to show Antarctica free of ice.

Now, in theory, Antarctica has been covered in ice for most of the last 12,000 years, long before modern humans began exploration.  However, our understanding of dates mostly relies on our understanding of carbon dating…  What if we got it totally wrong, because we didn’t realize that radio carbon dating was impacted by meteor strikes or even meteors that just explode over the surface of the Earth?

Okay, back the Yucatan Peninsula.  If a meteor of only 20 meters in diameter can cause a spike in radiation levels on the surface of the earth, just from exploding in the air, for the record, 20 meters is about 1/100th of a mile.  So scale up that 20 meters to 5 miles, just to go on the low side of the meteor’s size.  Essentially, a meteor more than 5,000 times larger as the one over Chelyabinsk Oblansk.

That is one of those moments where my brain has trouble fathoming the actual event based on sheer enormity.  For the record, that is seriously larger than any nuclear weapon ever tested.  How much did that alter the carbon 14 in the organic matter that survived?  How much did it increase the amount of carbon 14 in the soil?

And that soil number is important, because new plant life leeches carbon 14 from the soil when it begins to grow, meaning soil with increased amounts of carbon 14 can lead to organic matter that has extra carbon 14.  We could be off by a hundred thousand years or more, depending on the number of large meteors that have impacted the Earth.  I can think of at least four impact craters that supposedly belonged to extinction level meteors.  That’s a whole of radiation.  At which point, Antarctica being covered in ice for at least the last 12,000 years, isn’t a big deal.  It would be very possible for humans to have been alive and exploring at the time, before Antarctica froze over.

Also, it would explain the Great Flood myths.  Every civilization we have ever discovered, whether it be the Aborigines in Australia to the Bible, has a flood story.  A great flood that covers a large part of the surface of our planet in water, that doesn’t really have a good explanation, meaning we haven’t been able to figure out why everyone has one of these massive flood stories… But if we are wrong about the age of humanity, because it is based on carbon dating that could be flawed, well suddenly, it all makes more sense; floods, Piri Reis, the age of the Great Sphinx…

There are a whole lot of fringe science/science fiction theories solved in one fell swoop.  Could it really be that simple?  It’s unlikely, but it is food for thought.  We really don’t know what kind of impact an extinction level meteor would have on the Earth’s carbon 14 levels.  Smaller meteors have proven that space radiation is a real problem and that if a smaller version messes with radio carbon dating, then a large one would wreck even more havoc on it.


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