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The carbon-14 atoms are always decaying, but they are being replaced by new carbon-14 atoms at a constant rate.
At this moment, your body has a certain percentage of carbon-14 atoms in it, and all living plants and animals have the same percentage.
The carbon-14 atoms that cosmic rays create combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which plants absorb naturally and incorporate into plant fibers by photosynthesis.
Animals and people eat plants and take in carbon-14 as well.
Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.
Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.
After yet another 5,730 years only one-eighth will be left.
By measuring the carbon-14 in organic material, scientists can determine the date of death of the organic matter in an artifact or ecofact.
The ratio of normal carbon (carbon-12) to carbon-14 in the air and in all living things at any given time is nearly constant.
Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14.
Carbon-14 moves up the food chain as animals eat plants and as predators eat other animals. It takes 5,730 years for half the carbon-14 to change to nitrogen; this is the half-life of carbon-14.
After another 5,730 years only one-quarter of the original carbon-14 will remain.
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