Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14.

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The halflife of carbon 14 is 5730 ± 30 years, and the method of dating lies in trying to determine how much carbon 14 (the radioactive isotope of carbon) is present in the artifact and comparing it to levels currently present in the atmosphere.

Above is a graph that illustrates the relationship between how much Carbon 14 is left in a sample and how old it is.

Atoms of both isotopes of carbon contain 6 protons.

Atoms of carbon-12 have 6 neutrons, while atoms of carbon-14 contain 8 neutrons.

For example, every person is hit by about half a million cosmic rays every hour.

It is not uncommon for a cosmic ray to collide with an atom in the atmosphere, creating a secondary cosmic ray in the form of an energetic neutron, and for these energetic neutrons to collide with nitrogen atoms.

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.

Carbon-12 and carbon-14 are two isotopes of the element carbon.

Carbon-13 has 6 protons, just like other carbon isotopes, but it has 7 neutrons. Although 15 isotopes of carbon are known, the natural form of the element consists of a mixture of only three of them: carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14. Measuring the difference in the radio between carbon-12 and carbon-14 is useful for dating the age of organic matter since a living organism is exchanging carbon and maintaining a certain ratio of isotopes.

Anything that was once alive or that was produced by a living thing can be dated by using the radiocarbon method of dating.

The difference between carbon-12 and carbon-14 is the number of neutrons in each atom.