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Wikipedia carbon dating

The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive, though it is not dangerous.

It is naturally unstable and so it will spontaneously decay back into N-14 after a period of time.

-14 is continually formed in nature by the interaction of neutrons with nitrogen-14 in the Earth’s atmosphere; the neutrons required for this reaction are produced by cosmic rays interacting with the atmosphere.

The period of time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is called a "half-life." Radiocarbon oxidizes (that is, it combines with oxygen) and enters the biosphere through natural processes like breathing and eating.Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.C-12 is by far the most common isotope, while only about one in a trillion carbon atoms is C-14.C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as ...

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Radio carbon dating determines the age of ancient objects by means of measuring the amount of carbon-14 there is left in an object.

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