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Human Evolution and the Fossil Record Scientists continue to debate the history of man It is generallyagreed upon by the scientific community however that humans evolved from lesser beingsand this essay will function to provide evidence to support this claim Several pointswill be outlined including the general physical changes that occurred between several keyspecies on the phylogeny of man and a discussion of dating methods used to pinpoint theage of the fossils This essay will begin with a brief discussion of dating techniques Inthe study of hominid evolution two main methods of dating are used carbon-14 andpotassium-argon dating Carbon-14 dating involves the decay of radioactive C-14 which hasa half life of 5770 years This makes this method useful for dating of recent fossilswith good accuracy up to 50000 years back After 5770 years half of the carbon-14 in afossil decays to nitrogen-14 Since the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in a livingorganism remains the same as in the environment around them because the organismconstantly eats and replenishes it if it were to die the ratio would change greatlyafter many years It is the difference between this ratio now and the time is died thatallows a date for it to be established Potassium-argon dating another dating method ispossible due to volcanic ash and rocks found near many fossil sites Rocks and ash createdin this manner contain potassium-40 but no argon As time passes the potassium-40 decays into argon-40 In the laboratory the sample is reheated and sinceargon-40 is a gas it is released The ratio of argon-40 released to potassium-40 stillpresent allows for a date to be assigned to objects near the sample However due topotassiums high half-life 13 billion years it is only useful as a dating techniquefor finds older than 500000 years old Also it is only useful where volcanic activityexisted Both these methods have error margins ranging from a few thousand years incarbon-14 dating to tens of thousands of years or more
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