dating neckties - Radiocarbon dating and the old wood problem
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Some may have mistaken this to mean that the sample had been dated to 20,000 radiocarbon years.
The second characteristic of the measurement of radiocarbon is that it is easy to contaminate a sample which contains very little radiocarbon with enough radiocarbon from the research environment to give it an apparent radiocarbon age which is much less than its actual radiocarbon age.
For this reason special precautions need to be exercised when sampling materials which contain only small amounts of radiocarbon.
Reports of young radiocarbon ages for coal probably all stem from a misunderstanding of one or both of these two factors.
It is not difficult to see how such a claim could arise, however.