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Accuracy and precision in radiocarbon dating

One source of inaccuracies in radiocarbon dating is contamination.If your sample becomes contaminated with younger, modern material during the sampling process, then it will be invalid. If you sample sediments from the bottom of a lake that has a lot of incoming waters that have ancient radiocarbon in then, then you will derive an anomalously old age.

In the sciences, it is important to distinguish between precision and accuracy.

If we use the analogue of a clock we can investigate this further.

Measuring the environmental dose rate for an OSL sample from Glen Tulla, Scotland.

The gamma spectrometer has been put into the sample hole (see the lead going from the gamma spectrometer crystal to the control box).

The accuracy of AMS radiocarbon determinations on very small samples has been tested by measuring a suite of microgram-sized samples of a known-age material.

The total measurement precision for the smallest sample (50μg) was found to be ± 3% and the precision improved with larger sample size.

), then many of your boulders may have rolled or been covered with snow. It is the job of the scientist to sample carefully to minimise these potential sources of inaccuracies in cosmogenic nuclide dating.

Radiocarbon dating relies on the regular radioactive decay of carbon-14 in organic matter.

The precision is effectively the laboratory uncertainty.

The accuracy is how far this probability density curve falls from a reference value.

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