Their bodies are said to be in “equilibrium” with carbon-14 in the air.Although carbon-14 is radioactively decaying away in the body, it is constantly being replaced by new photosynthesis or the ingestion of food, leaving the amount relatively constant.The term is most commonly used in relation to atoms undergoing radioactive decay, but can be used to describe other types of decay, whether exponential or not.

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This discussion is a simplified introduction to radiocarbon dating.

If a fossil contains 60% of its original carbon, how old is the fossil? That means this is how long it takes for half the nuclei to decay.

After 5600 years, if we start with a gram, we end up with half a gram.

This process is constantly ongoing, so that at any point in time the amount of carbon-14 in living plants is the same as the amount of carbon-14 in the air around them.

Living plants are active components of the overall food chain.

The half-life of carbon-14 is approximately 5,730 years, and it can be reliably used to measure dates up to around 50,000 years ago.

The process of carbon-14 dating was developed by William Libby, and is based on the fact that carbon-14 is constantly being made in the atmosphere.

When they stop living, they stop taking in carbon-14 from the air around them, and the amount of carbon-14 in the remains gradually disappears.