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Instead, the radiocarbon atoms in their bodies slowly decay away, so the ratio of carbon-14 atoms to regular carbon atoms will steadily decrease over time (Figure 1c).Let’s suppose we find a mammoth’s skull and we want to date it to determine how long ago it lived.Radioactive and non-radioactive carbon dioxide mix throughout the atmosphere, and dissolve into the oceans.

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The reason is that, as long as the organism is alive, it replaces any carbon molecule that has decayed into nitrogen.

After plants and animals perish, however, they no longer replace molecules damaged by radiocarbon decay.

By comparing the surviving amount of carbon-14 to the original amount, scientists can calculate how long ago the animal died.

Since the atmosphere is composed of about 78% nitrogen,2 a lot of radiocarbon atoms are produced—in total about 16.5 pounds (7.5 kg) per year.

The standard way of expressing the decay rate is called the half-life.5 It’s defined as the time it takes half a given quantity of a radioactive element to decay.

So if we started with 2 million atoms of carbon-14 in our measured quantity of carbon, then the half-life of radiocarbon would be the time it takes for half, or 1 million, of those atoms to decay.Thus it appears that God probably created those elements when He made the original earth.In contrast, radiocarbon forms continually today in the earth’s upper atmosphere.If carbon-14 has formed at a constant rate for a very long time and continually mixed into the biosphere, then the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere should remain constant.If the level is constant, living plants and animals should also maintain a constant carbon-14 level in them.And as far as we know, it has been forming in the earth’s upper atmosphere since the atmosphere was made back on Day Two of Creation Week (part of the expanse, or firmament, described in Genesis 1:6–8). Cosmic rays from outer space are continually bombarding the upper atmosphere of the earth, producing fast-moving neutrons (subatomic particles carrying no electric charge) (Figure 1a).1 These fast-moving neutrons collide with atoms of nitrogen-14, the most abundant element in the upper atmosphere, converting them into radiocarbon (carbon-14) atoms.

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