Talk:Radiocarbon dating

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Featured article Radiocarbon dating is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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British English?[edit]

I don't understand why this article uses British English. Radiocarbon dating was invented in the United States, and the -ize construction is used more than the British -ise in the article. I think we should change it. --Serpinium (talk) 15:46, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

I marked as using British English because I saw some British English when I began working on it. My own English is a mixture of American and British, which is probably why there are some "-ize" endings. I think it should be left as British English; Libby is the key figure, of course, but I don't think that's enough to assert that the article ought to be in BrEng. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 16:36, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
The -ize ending is commonly used in British English. See the the Wikipedia page American and British English spelling differences#Greek-derived spellings and the Oxford Dictionaries blog here. Aa77zz (talk) 17:07, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Huh. Thank you for your reply, Aa77zz, I was not aware of that. According to the WP article, scientific publications especially prefer -ize. I've finished reading the article now, and I've compiled a list of all the errors I could find, so I'm ready to go for whichever style we go with. What do you think, Mike Christie (or anyone else reading)? It would be helpful to find some kind of precedent for this on Wikipedia. --Serpinium (talk) 17:50, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
By errors, do you mean deviations from British English? Or deviations from preferred usage in scientific publications? I've no objection to -ize (thanks, AA77zz, for the links; that explains why I use -ize, so perhaps my English has not become as Americanized as I thought it had) but don't feel strongly either way. I do think the article should stay in BrEng absent a convincing reason to change. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 18:14, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
OK, I've gone and made my edit with the -ize intact. Thanks, you guys. --Serpinium (talk) 19:52, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
British English uses both - see Oxford spelling - but it should be consistent. Johnbod (talk) 02:09, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
It's not a really strong national tie so the rule to follow should be consistency. Kortoso (talk) 20:39, 7 July 2016 (UTC)


It's not clear thru this article whether "cal" refers to "calendar" or "calibrated". The difference can be significant. Kortoso (talk) 20:41, 7 July 2016 (UTC)

Well, the "Reporting dates" section is the first place "cal" is used, and there it's defined as "calibrated", not "calendar". I don't think there are any uses of "cal" next to a date before that point in the article, are there? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 20:46, 7 July 2016 (UTC)

Recent changes to history section[edit]

KLindblom, I have a couple of suggestions and questions about your changes to the history section.

  • I'd prefer not to start the section with the statement that Libby came up with the idea in 1946. I think you're referring to his 1946 paper, which is mentioned later in that section. I would like to keep the section chronological, and avoid the implication that he didn't have the idea till 1946, so I'd like to cut that first sentence.
Chronological is a good idea. I've removed the biographical info on Libby that started the section. Since Libby didn't become interested in 14C until after Korff's research, it makes sense to introduce him later in the section.
  • I see you removed the reference to Danforth's co-authorship of Korff's paper? Korff was the principal author; does that mean we don't need to mention Danforth? I don't have a source that specifically says that the ideas in the paper were Korff's, so I mentioned both.
In several sources (including his 1960 Nobel Prize lecture), Libby cites Korff alone as providing the inspiration for radiocarbon dating. Therefore I think it's adequate to list only Korff.
  • I'm not sure the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program should be mentioned in that section; it's not really part of the history, just a recognition of the history. How about making that a category of some kind instead?
Good suggestion. I've moved the award to the Impacts section of the article. If you disagree, feel free to remove it.

Let me know what you think. -- Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 03:11, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

Hi Mike Christie. I've inserted my responses along with your bullets (above). Thank you.
I tweaked your changes a little more; let me know if that looks OK. I think the Landmark award might be better as a category, but I don't feel strongly about it so let's see if others comment. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 10:55, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

Council for British Archaeology[edit]

A note in British Archaeology, the magazine of the Council for British Archaeology, states

Radiocarbon dates: Unless otherwise noted, 14
dates in British Archaeology are calibrated at 95% confidence (cal AD or cal BC, expressed as AD or BC), and rounded out after Mook (1986). See

Congratulations to Mike for his work in producing such an authoritative article. Dudley Miles (talk) 19:49, 30 October 2016 (UTC)

Wow! That's very cool. Thanks for letting me know! Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 20:17, 30 October 2016 (UTC)

The Ineffectiveness of Carbon-Dating[edit]

I don't deny that Carbon-dating could be useful, but I feel that scientists might have made a mistake. Where did they get that half-life number, for instance, and are they sure that the radio-activeness rotted evenly? With (I hope) all due respect, I feel they should rethink their theory or mention the fact that they used carbon-dating whenever they did. With both respect and frustration, Myrrhfrankincensegold (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 23:23, 21 December 2016 (UTC)

If you have a WP:reliable source re: scientists might have made a mistake, then let's have it. Sorry 'bout your frustration :) Vsmith (talk) 18:17, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

Background - History - Korff[edit]

This section contained the phrase "... it was this paper that gave Libby the idea..." but the previous text in the wiki article didn't mention a particular publication. I've dug a little further to identify which paper was meant and found there were several papers by Korff but none quite stated that the interaction of slow neutrons with N14 in the atmosphere "was the main pathway". I've tweaked the text. Also Korff wasn't at NY Uni at the time.

Google preview allows me to see Taylor & Bar-Yosef 2014 on page 269 - and also Note 38 on page 325

  • Korff and Danforth 1939 is here It discusses the detection of neutrons in the atmosphere and doesn't mention carbon. According to Taylor & Bar-Yosef it was this article that Libby referred to in an interview.
  • Bethe et al 1940 is here. It mentions the cross-section of N14 to thermal neutrons in producing C14 and cites earlier work on this reaction.
  • Korff 1940 is here. It includes the text quoted by Taylor & Bar-Yosef: "Since each [neutron] will most probably be eventually captured by nitrogen, nitrogen will be disintegrated, forming long-lived C14 at a rate of q=10-6 atoms per cc per second in the upper atmosphere."

- Aa77zz (talk) 15:16, 6 January 2017 (UTC)