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Since all living things contain carbon, carbon-14 is a common radioisotope used primarily to date items that were once living.

Carbon-14 has a half-life of approximately 5,730 years and produces the decay product nitrogen-14.

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When scientists find a sample, they measure the amount of the original, or parent, isotope and compare it to the amount of the decay product formed.

They then count the number of half-lives passed and compute the absolute age of the sample.

Remember, isotopes are variations of elements with a different number of neutrons.

The half-life is reliable in dating artifacts because it's not affected by environmental or chemical factors; it does not change.

Radiocarbon present in molecules of atmospheric carbon dioxide enters the biological carbon cycle: it is absorbed from the air by green plants and then passed on to animals through the food chain.

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Isotopes decay at a constant rate known as the half-life.

The half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the atoms of a specific isotope to decay.

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Each element is made up of atoms, and within each atom is a central particle called a nucleus.

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