If the benzene sample contains carbon that is about 5, years old the half-life of 14 C , then there will only be half as many decay events per minute, but the same error term of 80 years could be obtained by doubling the counting time to minutes. These errors should then be mathematically combined to give an overall term for the error in the reported age, but in practice laboratories differ, not only in the terms they choose to include in their error calculations, but also in the way they combine errors. In , the British Museum radiocarbon laboratory ran weekly measurements on the same sample for six months. The extreme measurements included one with a maximum age of under 4, years, and another with a minimum age of over 4, years.
Explainer: what is radiocarbon dating and how does it work?
Measurement of N, the number of 14 C atoms currently in the sample, allows the calculation of t, the age of the sample, using the equation above. The above calculations make several assumptions, such as that the level of 14 C in the atmosphere has remained constant over time. The calculations involve several steps and include an intermediate value called the "radiocarbon age", which is the age in "radiocarbon years" of the sample: Radiocarbon ages are still calculated using this half-life, and are known as "Conventional Radiocarbon Age".
Messenger Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50, years. Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts. Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon.
Radiocarbon in soils Understanding units and unit conversions Radiocarbon nomenclature can be a significant stumbling block to researchers applying radiocarbon to their work for the first time. A multitude of units are currently in use, with the unit of choice varying by scientific discipline. Some labs may even give a calibrated age or date range on their data reports. Data misinterpretation can occur when the data recipient either misunderstands what the number represents e.