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The carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants, and the plants are eaten by animals, thus contaminating every living thing on earth with radioactive carbon. As time passes, the C14 in its tissues is converted back into nitrogen.If we know what the original ratios of C14 to C12 were in the organism when it died, and if we know that the sample has not been contaminated by contact with other carbon since its death, we should be able to calculate when it died by its C14 to C12 ratio.
As you might guess, radioactive carbon (C) is quite rare.
Only one out of every trillion carbon atoms is C14. The C14 created in the upper atmosphere reacts with oxygen to become carbon dioxide.
The ions produced are forced into a magnetic field where the different mass of the carbon isotopes causes a different deflection, allowing the quantity of each isotope to be measured.
This method is claimed to be more accurate than the older and slower method of counting the number of radioactive decay emissions from a quite large sample.
Basis of Radiocarbon Dating Problems with Radiocarbon Dating The Earth's Magnetic Field Table 1 Effect of Increasing Earth's Magnetic Field Removal of Carbon From the Biosphere Water Vapour Canopy Effect on Radiocarbon Dating Figure 1 Apparent Radiocarbon Dates Heartwood and Frozen Time Early Post-Flood Trees Appendix Radiocarbon Date Table HOW ACCURATE IS RADIOCARBON DATING? The normal carbon atom has six protons and six neutrons in its nucleus, giving a total atomic mass of 12.