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The theory behind radiocarbon dating is as follows: Why doesn't the carbon-14 in the air decay along with terrestrial carbon? The trick is that radioactive carbon-14 is continually replenished in a complex reaction that involves high-energy cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere.In this process, nitrogen-14 (7 protons and 7 neutrons) gains a neutron and loses a proton, producing carbon-14 (6 protons and 8 neutrons).The proportion of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere therefore remains relatively stable at about 1.5 parts per billion.
Radiocarbon dating is therefore limited to objects that are younger than 50,000 to 60,000 years or so.
decay or the rate of other cumulative changes in atoms resulting from radioactivity. The various isotopes of the same element differ in terms of atomic mass but have the same atomic number..
One half-life is the amount of time required for of the original atoms in a sample to decay.
Following death, however, no new carbon is consumed.
Progressively through time, the carbon-14 atoms decay and once again become nitrogen-14.
Conversely, contamination by newer plant matter carried by flowing water or intruding plant roots may result in a date that is much too young. The original technique was based on counting the number of individual radioactive decay events per unit of time, using a device similar to a Geiger counter.