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For a rare event it happens pretty damn often — one million carbon-14 atoms in your body decay into nitrogen every minute!But don't panic — of the 800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 carbon atoms in every one of us, about 800,000,000,000,000 are carbon-14, so we've got a few to spare.When those speedy protons hit atoms you end up with a few stray neutrons zipping around the place.And when one of those energetic neutrons hits a nitrogen atom, the nitrogen spits out a proton.So calculating the age range of a once-living sample involves measuring the 14C/12C ratio, and using this the known half-life to estimate the length of time since the sample died.

Carbon-14, the radioactive version of carbon, is rare — it only makes up one trillionth of all the carbon in the world.

Chemically, carbon-14 is no different from non-radioactive carbon atoms, so it ends up in all the usual carbon places — one trillionth of the carbon atoms in air, plants, animals and us are radioactive.

All radioactive atoms eventually decay into something more stable, and carbon-14 decays into nitrogen.

And after 11,460 years (two half-lives), only a quarter of the original carbon-14 atoms are left.

After five half-lives (28,650 years) only 1/32 remains.

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