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These collisions create secondary cosmic rays in the form of energentic neutrons.When these neutrons collide with nitrogen-14 in the atmosphere carbon-14 can be created.These artifacts have gone through many carbon-14 half-lives and the amount of carbon-14 remaining in them is miniscule and very difficult to detect.Carbon dating cannot be used on most fossils, not only because they are almost always too old, but also because they rarely contain the original carbon of the organism.Imagine your sample contained 20% of the carbon-14 found in a living plant leaf.

Carbon dating also cannot be used on artifacts over about 50,000 years old.

The ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere and on earth is nearly constant, although there has been some change in carbon-14 concentration over the last 10,000 years.

Carbon-14 formed in the atmosphere can combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide (CO2).

At any given moment all living plants and animals have approximately the same percentage of carbon-14 in their bodies.

When a plant or animal dies it stops bringing in new carbon-14.

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