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When a sample is dated, the ratio of C-14/C-12 is measured and compared to the curve or table I discussed in the previous paragraph.That gives how long ago the biological sample stopped exchanging carbon with the environment. Instead scientist use an accelerator mass spectrometer to measure the ratio of the carbon-14 atoms to the carbon-12 atoms.A mass spec can do this easily with proper preparation.C), or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with an atomic nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons.Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues (1949) to date archaeological, geological and hydrogeological samples.The naturally occurring ratio of C-14/C-12 is about 10^-12 (0.000000000001).

Through this method we can produce a curve or table that shows exactly what the C-14/C-12 ratio was for thousands of years into the past.

Therefore, the percentages of the three isotopes will be the same in a living organism as it is in the organism’s environment.

Carbon-14 is not stable against beta-minus decay with a half-life of 5,730±40 years, but is constantly replenished in the atmosphere by cosmic ray interaction with nitrogen-14.

Note that we don’t measure carbon-14 and compare it to how much carbon we assume was in the sample.

We don’t need to know how much carbon was in the sample. We measure the current ratio of C-14/C-12 and compare it to naturally occurring ratio.

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