However, if the clocks change and you forget to reset your wrist watch, then you have a very precise time but it is not very accurate – you will be an hour early or late for all of your meetings!See the difference between accurate and precise measurements in the bull’s eye figure below.Analytical techniques are now very advanced, and can give very small uncertainties on a radiocarbon age.But this isn’t the full story: like cosmogenic nuclide dating, there are plenty of sources of inaccuracies before the sample even gets to the laboratory.Scientists want measurements that are both accurate and precise…but it can be difficult to tell sometimes whether very precise measurements are actually accurate without an independent reference age (see top right image versus bottom right image).
But it is important not to take these ages at face value, and to think critically about whether or not they may be accurate.
The precision is effectively the laboratory uncertainty.
The accuracy is how far this probability density curve falls from a reference value.
), then many of your boulders may have rolled or been covered with snow. It is the job of the scientist to sample carefully to minimise these potential sources of inaccuracies in cosmogenic nuclide dating.
Radiocarbon dating relies on the regular radioactive decay of carbon-14 in organic matter.
In fact, in cosmogenic nuclide dating, the greatest uncertainties come from geological problems that result in inaccurate ages.