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Instead, the radiocarbon atoms in their bodies slowly decay away, so the ratio of carbon atoms to regular carbon atoms will steadily decrease over time figure 3.

After the death of an animal it no longer eats and adds 14 C to its body, so the 14 C in it is steadily lost by decay back to 14 N.

Radiocarbon then enters animals as they consume the plants figure 2.

So even we humans are radioactive because of trace amounts of radiocarbon in our bodies.

We can measure in the laboratory how many carbon atoms are still in the skull.

The sand grains that originally filled the top bowl represent the carbon atoms in the living mammoth just before it died.Chemists have already determined how many atoms are in a given mass of each element, such as carbon.If we know what fraction of the carbon atoms are radioactive, we can also calculate how many radiocarbon atoms are in questions lump.The reason is that, as long as the organism is alive, it replaces any carbon molecules that have decayed into nitrogen.After plants and animals perish, however, they no longer replace dating damaged by radioactive decay.

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