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When the organism dies, the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 decreases, as carbon-14 decays and is no longer incorporated into the organism.Radiocarbon dating can date samples up to 50,000 years old.Carbon-12 has 6 neutrons, carbon-13 has 7 neutrons, and carbon-14 contains 8 neutrons.Carbon-12 and 13 are stable isotopes, which means that the nucleus does not undergo radioactive decay.Carbon-12 and carbon-13 are both stable isotopes, but carbon-14 is unstable and is radioactive.Carbon-14 is continually produced in the upper atmosphere as neutrons, which are by-products of cosmic rays, and is then absorbed by nitrogen atoms.
The result is that carbon dating is accurate for only a few thousand years. This fact is born out in how carbon dating results are used by scientists in the scientific literature.
Carbon-14 atoms react with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, and carbon-14 is incorporated into the food chain when plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.
Living things contain carbon-14 and carbon-12 in a ratio that is the same as in the atmosphere at the time.
A man called Willard F Libby pioneered it at the University of Chicago in the 50's. This is now the most widely used method of age estimation in the field of archaeology.
Carbon has the atomic number of 6 which means that all isotopes have the same proton number.