Over time, carbon-14 decays radioactively and turns into nitrogen.
A living organism takes in both carbon-12 and carbon-14 from the environment in the same relative proportion that they existed naturally.
Radiocarbon or C14 dating employs complex systems of measuring the unstable isotopes in once living matter.
There are three forms of carbon that naturally occur forming the building blocks of all plant and animal life.
The theory behind radiocarbon dating is as follows: Why doesn't the carbon-14 in the air decay along with terrestrial carbon? The trick is that radioactive carbon-14 is continually replenished in a complex reaction that involves high-energy cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere.
In this process, nitrogen-14 (7 protons and 7 neutrons) gains a neutron and loses a proton, producing carbon-14 (6 protons and 8 neutrons).
Carbon dating is used by archeologists to date trees, plants, and animal remains; as well as human artifacts made from wood and leather; because these items are generally younger than 50,000 years.
Carbon is found in different forms in the environment – mainly in the stable form of carbon-12 and the unstable form of carbon-14.
(The numbers 12, 13 and 14 refer to the total number of protons plus neutrons in the atom's nucleus.Geologists do not use carbon-based radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks.Carbon dating only works for objects that are younger than about 50,000 years, and most rocks of interest are older than that.However its application has caused extreme confusion and misunderstanding of the archaeological record.Knowing the limitations of this dating method can help avoid colossal archaeological misinterpretations that would otherwise distort history.It cannot be applied to inorganic material such as stone tools or ceramic pottery.The technique is based on measuring the ratio of two isotopes of carbon.The stable C12 and C13, and the unstable or radioactive Carbon 14. Only one C14 atom exists for every one trillion C12 atoms.Nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere are struck by cosmic radiation and create C14 atoms.For periods without a historic record, attempts have been made to categorize tool kits, pottery styles, and architectural forms into regional timelines.Some ill-fated attempts to define time even attempted to count backwards through the genealogies of the Bible, establishing a series of dates which remain a cause of confusion.