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.One source of inaccuracies in radiocarbon dating is contamination.
A stop watch may time your race with a precision of one hundredth of a second.
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.
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).