This, in fact, is the most significant factor contributing to loss of precision in radiocarbon dates today.

However, this contribution is usually only a few decades.

In Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), for example, the number of radiocarbon atoms in a stream of atoms coming from the sample is counted.

in radiocarbon dating-17

Thus it is possible in some instances for two samples from a few decades apart to have the same radiocarbon concentration today, and hence the same apparent radiocarbon age.

This happens whenever there is a wiggle in the curve at the time the samples died.

The precision of a radiocarbon date tells how narrow the range of dates is.

There are two main factors which determine the precision of a radiocarbon date.

Though the vast majority of CO2 is comprised of the more common and stable isotope of carbon, carbon 12 (C12), a small fraction of CO2 (one in 765 million), contains C14.

As is common fact, plants photosynthesize and consume CO2, fixing its carbon.

Though they may know it as carbon dating or carbon 14 dating, there is an understood notion that when anything old is found, like an ancient artifact, it can be radiocarbon dated to find out exactly how old it is.

Yet, as simple and straightforward as this seems, the process of dating objects via radiocarbon is far from simple and straightforward.

Once the radiocarbon concentration in a sample has been measured, the sample's age in "radiocarbon years" is determined mathematically.

The radiocarbon age must then be calibrated to determine the sample's age in calendar years.

Here I will present what radiocarbon is, the dating methods, the assumptions that govern them, and the known discrepancies that plague the method.