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20 Mar

However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, it's possible to work out how old it is.Follow the links below to learn more about radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating uses carbon isotopes A special kind of radiocarbon dating: Bomb radiocarbon dating What is an isotope?

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Carbon-14 is most abundant in atmospheric carbon dioxide because it is constantly being produced by collisions between nitrogen atoms and cosmic rays at the upper limits of the atmosphere.Organisms at the base of the food chain that photosynthesize – for example, plants and algae – use the carbon in Earth’s atmosphere.They have the same ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 as the atmosphere, and this same ratio is then carried up the food chain all the way to apex predators, like sharks.They have masses of 13 and 14 respectively and are referred to as "carbon-13" and "carbon-14." If two atoms have equal numbers of protons but differing numbers of neutrons, one is said to be an "isotope" of the other.Carbon-13 and carbon-14 are thus isotopes of carbon-12.