Carbon dating physics problem
(This research is part of the "Old Carbon Project" funded by the U. National Science Foundation's Particle and Nuclear Astrophysics Program and also by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council.
References A great general introduction to carbon-14 dating: General information on the many types of neutrino detectors: stanford.edu/gen/meeting/ssi/1997/wojcicki4A very nice in-depth discussion of the three new neutrino detectors and how they work (scroll almost to the end to read about Borexino): diagram of the Borexino (Italy) neutrino detector - notice the enormous shielding to protect it from radiation from the surrounding rock: about the Borexino detector from Princeton University: original paper which raised this "old coal" issue: "Problems associated with the use of coal as a source of C-free background material." D.
Gove wrote back the very next day, as did one of his colleagues.
By sheer coincidence, they are currently studying this exact question.
(In comparison, my little hormone vials, here in my above-ground lab, have a background count of about 25 counts per minute for 3.5 milliliters.) So, the physicists want to find fossil fuels that have very little C.
Apparently it correlates best with the content of the natural radioactivity of the rocks surrounding the fossil fuels, particularly the neutron- and alpha-particle-emitting isotopes of the uranium-thorium series. Gove and his colleagues told me they think the evidence so far demonstrates that C by local radioactive decay of the uranium-thorium series.
I picked him to bother with my emails because he had recently written some nice review articles about the AMS technique in the Radiocarbon journal.