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Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50,000 years old.

When it collides with an energetic neutron it becomes carbon-14, with six protons and eight neutrons and gives off a hydrogen atom with one proton and zero neutrons. Carbon-14 is an isotope of carbon, which exists only is small amounts in the environment (1 in one trillion carbon atoms is carbon-14).The ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere and on earth is nearly constant, although there has been some change in carbon-14 concentration over the last 10,000 years.Carbon-14 formed in the atmosphere can combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide (CO2).This carbon-14 labeled carbon dioxide is taken up by plants in their normal process of photosynthesis.Animals and people that eat these plants take the carbon-14 into their bodies as well.Carbon-14 in the bodies of animals and plants is constantly decaying.However, the decaying carbon-14 is constantly being replaced as the plant or animal consumes more carbon-14 from the air or through its food.At any given moment all living plants and animals have approximately the same percentage of carbon-14 in their bodies.When a plant or animal dies it stops bringing in new carbon-14.However, the carbon-14 already in the organism's body continues to decay at a constant rate.Therefore, the amount of carbon-14 in an artifact decreases at a predictable rate while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant.

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