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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.The carbon-14 isotope would vanish from Earth's atmosphere in less than a million years were it not for the constant influx of cosmic rays interacting with molecules of nitrogen (NFigure 1: Diagram of the formation of carbon-14 (forward), the decay of carbon-14 (reverse).Carbon-14 is constantly be generated in the atmosphere and cycled through the carbon and nitrogen cycles.Radiocarbon dating (usually referred to simply as carbon-14 dating) is a radiometric dating method.

Radiocarbon dating is used in many fields to learn information about the past conditions of organisms and the environments present on Earth.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.As a result it is always undergoing natural radioactive decay while the abundances of the other isotopes are unchanged.Carbon-14 is most abundant in atmospheric carbon dioxide because it is constantly being produced by collisions between nitrogen atoms and cosmic rays at the upper limits of the atmosphere.

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