Faulty radiometric dating
For example, a sample with a true radiocarbon age of 100,000 radiocarbon years will yield a measured radiocarbon age of about 20,000 radiocarbon years if the sample is contaminated with a weight of modern carbon of just 5% of the weight of the sample's carbon.
It is not too difficult to supply contaminating radiocarbon since it is present in relatively high concentrations in the air and in the tissues of all living things including any individuals handling the sample.
Some may have mistaken this to mean that the sample had been dated to 20,000 radiocarbon years.
The second characteristic of the measurement of radiocarbon is that it is easy to contaminate a sample which contains very little radiocarbon with enough radiocarbon from the research environment to give it an apparent radiocarbon age which is much less than its actual radiocarbon age.
Other radiometric dating methods such as potassium-argon or rubidium-strontium are used for such purposes by those who believe that the earth is billions of years old.
Radiocarbon is not suitable for this purpose because it is only applicable: a) on a time scale of thousands of years and b) to remains of once-living organisms (with minor exceptions, from which rocks are excluded).
The field of radiocarbon dating has become a technical one far removed from the naive simplicity which characterized its initial introduction by Libby in the late 1940's.
It is, therefore, not surprising that many misconceptions about what radiocarbon can or cannot do and what it has or has not shown are prevalent among creationists and evolutionists - lay people as well as scientists not directly involved in this field.
Thus, it is possible (and, given the Flood, probable) that materials which give radiocarbon dates of tens of thousands of radiocarbon years could have true ages of many fewer calendar years. The shells of live freshwater clams have been radiocarbon dated in excess of 1600 years old, clearly showing that the radiocarbon dating technique is not valid.
First, any instrument which is built to measure radiocarbon has a limit beyond which it cannot separate the signal due to radiocarbon in the sample from the signal due to background processes within the measuring apparatus.
Even a hypothetical sample containing absolutely no radiocarbon will register counts in a radiocarbon counter because of background signals within the counter.
The shells of live freshwater clams can, and often do, give anomalous radiocarbon results.
However, the reason for this is understood and the problem is restricted to only a few special cases, of which freshwater clams are the best-known example.