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Strategies for testing accuracy and precision on unknown material are discussed here, as well as the possibilities of one day reaching precisions equivalent to errors of To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure [email protected] added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Note you can select to send to either the @free.or @variations.
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Radioactive decay causes once-living specimens to lose half of their C14 atoms in about each 5,730-year half-life.
Thus, if the level today is half of what it was estimated to be when the thing died, it is said to be 5,730 years old.
More generally, sample pretreatment should remove as much contamination as feasible from the sample while adding as little laboratory contamination as possible.
For more complex materials, such as bone, there is clearly more work needed to prove good reproducibility and insignificant offsets in all circumstances.
The curved line represents the loss of C14 over time due to radioactive decay.
At these levels, the scatter in results is no higher than reported errors, suggesting that uncertainties of ±25 to ±30 C yr can be reliably reported on single target measurements.
This provides a test of all parts of the process for a particular material in a particular state of preservation.
The bold line at the 100% level represents the generally accepted assumption that for thousands of years the original content has been at the same level as what is observed in the atmosphere in modern times.
The small box on the decay curve represents the current level of a particular once-living specimen, in this instance measured at 50% of its assumed original content.