However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.
By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, it's possible to work out how old it is.
The rate at which C atoms, half of them will decay in 5730 years.
Since this rate is slow relative to the movement of carbon through food chains (from plants to animals to bacteria) all carbon in biomass at earth's surface contains atmospheric levels of C is present at atmospheric levels, the molecule must derive from a recent plant product.
Along with hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur, carbon is a building block of biochemical molecules ranging from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to active substances such as hormones.
All carbon atoms have a nucleus containing six protons.
Ninety-nine percent of these also contain six neutrons.
The 6 proton 6 neutron atoms are said to have a mass of 12 and are referred to as "carbon-12." The nuclei of the remaining one percent of carbon atoms contain not six but either seven or eight neutrons in addition to the standard six protons.
The pathway from the plant to the molecule may have been indirect or lengthy, involving multiple physical, chemical, and biological processes.
Levels of C can represent either mixtures of modern and dead carbon or carbon that was fixed from the atmosphere less than 50,000 years ago.
Isotopes participate in the same chemical reactions but often at differing rates.