The carbon-14 atoms are always decaying, but they are being replaced by new carbon-14 atoms at a constant rate.
At this moment, your body has a certain percentage of carbon-14 atoms in it, and all living plants and animals have the same percentage.
Carbon-14 is radioactive, with a half-life of about 5,700 years.
The principal modern standard used by radiocarbon dating labs was the Oxalic Acid I obtained from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. Around 95% of the radiocarbon activity of Oxalic Acid I is equal to the measured radiocarbon activity of the absolute radiocarbon standard—a wood in 1890 unaffected by fossil fuel effects.
An age could be estimated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in the sample and comparing this against an internationally used reference standard.
The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.
When the stocks of Oxalic Acid I were almost fully consumed, another standard was made from a crop of 1977 French beet molasses.
The new standard, Oxalic Acid II, was proven to have only a slight difference with Oxalic Acid I in terms of radiocarbon content.
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No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.