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Until then, the inherent error from this uncertainty must be recognized.
A final problem of importance in carbon-14 dating is the matter of sample contamination.
Fortunately, neither effect has been significant in the case of older samples submitted for carbon-14 dating.
The ultimate cause of carbon-14 variations with time is generally attributed to temporal fluctuations in the cosmic rays that bombard the upper atmosphere and create terrestrial carbon-14.
Whenever the number of cosmic rays in the atmosphere is low, the rate of carbon-14 production is correspondingly low, resulting in a decrease of the radioisotope in the carbon-exchange reservoir described above.
Expressed as a fraction of the contemporary level, they have been mathematically converted to ages through Improvements in measurement accuracy and the ever-mounting experience in applying carbon-14 dating have provided superior and more voluminous data with which to better answer Libby’s original questions.
It relies instead on the progressive decay or disappearance of the radioactive parent with time.