C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).
The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive, though it is not dangerous.
A molecule of nitrogen gas is made up of two nitrogen atoms.
There are other molecules..Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC.
These two pieces of information are sufficient to completely identify the ion as C atoms at the rate at which they decay.
This requires sufficient atoms to be present to provide a large enough decay rate, as described above.
All atoms of an element have the same number of protons. When an atom gives off radiation, it turns into a different kind of atom. Some atoms decay very quickly,..Some materials are radioactive. When an atom of a radioactive substance gives off radiation, it becomes a new type of atom. There are two..There is more nitrogen gas in the air than any other kind of gas.
For example, all hydrogen atoms have one proton, all carbon atoms have 6 protons, and all uranium..Carbon-14 is an isotope of the element carbon. Most carbon atoms also have 6 neutrons, giving them an atomic mass of 12 ( = 6 protons 6 neutrons). About 4/5ths of Earth's atmosphere is nitrogen gas!
AMS allows very low levels of tracer to be used, completely avoiding these problems.
Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.
When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.
It is often used in archeology and some types of biology. Plants (and other autotrophs) take in carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.
Animals (and other heterotrophs) get their carbon by eating plants or other animals, from decaying organic matter, or from other similar sources.