Radio carbon dating facts
Much of the information presented in this section is based upon the Stuiver and Polach (1977) paper "Discussion: Reporting of C14 data". 1890 wood was chosen as the radiocarbon standard because it was growing prior to the fossil fuel effects of the industrial revolution.
A copy of this paper may be found in the Radiocarbon Home Page The radiocarbon age of a sample is obtained by measurement of the residual radioactivity. T (National Institute of Standards and Technology; Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA) Oxalic Acid I (C). The activity of 1890 wood is corrected for radioactive decay to 1950.
Another standard, Oxalic Acid II was prepared when stocks of HOx 1 began to dwindle. The ratio of the activity of Oxalic acid II to 1 is 1.29330.001 (the weighted mean) (Mann, 1983). There are other secondary radiocarbon standards, the most common is ANU (Australian National University) sucrose.
The ratio of the activity of sucrose with 0.95 Ox was first measured by Polach at 1.50070.0052 (Polach, 1976b:122).
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This is the International Radiocarbon Dating Standard.
Unfortunately, tree ring dating is itself not entirely reliable, especially the "long chronology" employed to calibrate the carbon dating method.
The result is that carbon dating is accurate for only a few thousand years. This fact is born out in how carbon dating results are used by scientists in the scientific literature.
In order to make allowances for background counts and to evaluate the limits of detection, materials which radiocarbon specialists can be fairly sure contain no activity are measured under identical counting conditions as normal samples.
Background samples usually consist of geological samples of infinite age such as coal, lignite, limestone, ancient carbonate, athracite, marble or swamp wood. Furthermore, the ratio is known to fluctuate significantly over relatively short periods of time (e.g.