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Archaeology and other human sciences use radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories.

Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and even biomedicine.

All laboratories report counting statistics—that is, statistics showing possible errors in counting the decay events or number of atoms—with an error term of 1σ (i.e.68% confidence that the true value is within the given range).The resulting standard value, A The first standard, Oxalic Acid SRM 4990B, also referred to as HOx I, was a 1,000 lb batch of oxalic acid created in 1955 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).Since it was created after the start of atomic testing, it incorporates bomb carbon, so measured activity is higher than the desired standard.The calculations to be performed on the measurements taken depend on the technology used, since beta counters measure the sample's radioactivity, whereas accelerator mass spectrometers (AMS) determine the ratio of the three different carbon isotopes in the sample.

Another standard is the use of 1950 as "present", in the sense that a calculation that shows that a sample's likely age is 500 years "before present" means that it is likely to have come from about the year 1450.These errors can be reduced by extending the counting duration: for example, testing a modern benzene sample will find about eight decay events per minute per gram of benzene, and 250 minutes of counting will suffice to give an error of ± 80 years, with 68% confidence.If the benzene sample contains carbon that is about 5,730 years old (the half-life of To be completely accurate, the error term quoted for the reported radiocarbon age should incorporate counting errors not only from the sample, but also from counting decay events for the reference sample, and for blanks.Samples older than this will typically be reported as having an infinite age.Some techniques have been developed to extend the range of dating further into the past, including isotopic enrichment, or large samples and very high precision counters.In 1970, the British Museum radiocarbon laboratory ran weekly measurements on the same sample for six months.