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The atmosphere contains many stable carbon atoms and relatively few radiocarbon atoms.The ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in the atmosphere has varied in the past.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.This ratio is the same for all organisms across the globe at a given time due to the mixing of the atmosphere mentioned above.
Thus, the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in a living plant is the same as the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the atmosphere at any given time.
However, at the moment of death, the amount of carbon-14 begins to decrease because it is unstable, while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant in the sample.
Half of the carbon-14 degrades every 5,730 years as indicated by its half-life.
The carbon-14 atoms combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which plants absorb naturally and incorporate into plant fibers by photosynthesis.
Animals and people take in carbon-14 by eating the plants.
Both Carbon-12 and Carbon-13 are stable, but Carbon-14 decays by very weak beta decay to nitrogen-14 with a half-life of approximately 5,730 years.