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The raw radiocarbon date of any sample can then be converted to true date by using this calibration table.This calibration step eliminates any concern about fluctuations in historic radiocarbon to stable carbon ratios or decay rates.Thus, the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in a living plant is the same as the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the atmosphere at any given time.Animals (and humans) get their carbon atoms primarily from what they eat (i.e., plants).From then on, the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon will decrease, because the unstable radiocarbon atoms will slowly decay. From this measurement the age in radiocarbon years is calculated. Modern radiocarbon dates are calibrated using long tree-ring chronologies.After about 50,000 years, the radiocarbon concentration remaining is too small to be measured for the purpose of radiocarbon dating. This is necessary to remove errors in raw radiocarbon dates caused by fluctuations in the amount of radiocarbon in the atmosphere in the past.This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radiocarbon.
It provides an objective, absolute method of determining a sample's age with quantifiable precision.Cosmic rays enter the earth's atmosphere in large numbers every day.For example, every person is hit by about half a million cosmic rays every hour.The ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in the atmosphere has varied in the past.This is because the amount and strength of cosmic radiation entering the earth's atmosphere has varied over time.