The pathway from the plant to the molecule may have been indirect or lengthy, involving multiple physical, chemical, and biological processes.Levels of C can represent either mixtures of modern and dead carbon or carbon that was fixed from the atmosphere less than 50,000 years ago.The net effect of this is that all living organisms have the same radiocarbon to stable carbon ratio as the atmosphere.Once an organism dies the carbon is no longer replaced.The rate at which C atoms, half of them will decay in 5730 years.Since this rate is slow relative to the movement of carbon through food chains (from plants to animals to bacteria) all carbon in biomass at earth's surface contains atmospheric levels of C is present at atmospheric levels, the molecule must derive from a recent plant product.
For radiocarbon dating to be possible, the material must once have been part of a living organism.
This fact should always be remembered when using radiocarbon dates.
The dating process is always designed to try to extract the carbon from a sample which is most representative of the original organism.
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Carbon-14 is continually formed in nature by the interaction of neutrons with nitrogen-14 in the Earth’s atmosphere; the neutrons required for this reaction are produced by cosmic rays interacting with the atmosphere.