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Carbon has two stable, nonradioactive isotopes: carbon-12 (12C) and carbon-13 (13C).

There are also trace amounts of the unstable radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) on Earth.

Raw (i.e., uncalibrated) radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" (BP), with "present" defined as CE 1950.

After plants die or are consumed by other organisms, the incorporation of all carbon isotopes, including 14C, stops.Thereafter, the concentration (fraction) of 14C declines at a fixed exponential rate due to the radioactive decay of 14C. ) Comparing the remaining 14C fraction of a sample to that expected from atmospheric 14C allows us to estimate the age of the sample.Radiocarbon dating (usually referred to simply as carbon-14 dating) is a radiometric dating method.It uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years old.

This is why it is such a big concern when a nuclear submarine sinks... (By the way, you are mostly Carbon-12, which is not radioactive.Eventually, the salt water will eat through the steel and release the Plutonium (which, as you know, is quite lethal.) They usually talk about either trying to raise the sub or encase it in concrete where it rests. That's why we are called "Carbon-based life forms." Man, I've really watched too much Star Trek.)Scientists use Carbon-14 to make a guess at how old some things are -- things that used to be alive like people, animals, wood and natural cloths. Anyway, they make an estimate of how much Carbon-14 would have been in the thing when it died...

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