# What if we carbon dated something from the future?

Asked by XOIIO (18320) February 12th, 2013

So carbon dating works based on how much carbon 14 has decayed, but I was wondering, say somehow some rock or something from the future ended up in our time, what would happen if it was carbon dated? What would the scientists see exactly? Could they tell it was from the future?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

If it came from the future, scientists would still conclude that it came from the past and that it was as old as the time that passed to the present, plus the time into the future. They would get the age correct, but they would misplace it somewhere in the past- farther back than it belonged.

josie (30931)

That depends on how long it took to get from its own time to our time. If that journey was instantaneous, carbon dating would give you (date object left its own time – date object came into being). If the journey took several years, it would give you (time of travel + date object left its own time – date object came into being).

That’s assuming the object is within the age range in which carbon dating is valid.

I don’t think it could tell you that the object came from the future, unless there was a large directional shift in the ratio of 14C to 12C in the atmosphere. Some fluctuation is already observed, so it would be hard to assume this was not due to variation between years or regions.

glacial (12140)

@josie got it right. Carbon dating doesn’t tell us anything about what year something is from. It tells us how old it is from which we infer the year.

What if?

No… we will!

Watching too much Star Trek Enterprise have we?

gambitking (4201)

@gambitking Nope, not a fan of star trek.

XOIIO (18320)

Scientists would conclude the presence of rather strong cosmic rays affecting more nitrogen atoms than usual. All happening in the present.

mattbrowne (31648)

@mattbrowne In the future people will decide what rays in what quantity do and do not reach earth. We might absorb all less-useful wavelengths of light and such a process may prevent stray protons from reaching the earth. We will decide what our atmosphere is composed of in what quantities. We will decide our weather. It is hard to know what the earth will look like in the future as we haven’t decided yet.

or