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Q & A: Ageless materials and dating

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Most recent answer: 11/21/2013
I'm writing a science fiction/fantasy novel in which I am trying to keep my science at least reasonable. I have an object that I'm calling inert as it can't be dated. Is it at all possible that something cannot be dated, using our present technology? Thanks
- Ross G. Homer (age 66)
Anchorage, AK USA

Hi Ross,

I'm no expert on this topic, but I think there are many objects which could not be dated. Carbon dating, for example, is best at measuring ages between 500 and 50,000 years. Radioactive dating using other elements can be more useful for older objects. All these techniques rely on the decay of isotopes of known concentration and decay rate. If you built your ageless object with an unusual chemical composition, I don't think these techniques would work to find its age.

Even if you allow for all possible dating techniques, I'd guess that you can't find the age of a single proton, a gas in thermal equilibrium, a pure crystal, etc.

These are just some thoughts I had; it's hard to say for sure. Long story short, I don't think you should worry about calling your object inert.

David Schmid

(published on 11/21/2013)

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