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So, we have a “clock” which starts ticking the moment something dies.
Obviously, this works only for things which were once living.
Continue Reading Carbon-14 is only a small percentage of the total carbon in the environment and originates in the atmosphere when cosmic rays and high-speed particles from space hit nitrogen atoms.
Although the physics are more complicated than this, essentially the nitrogen atoms lose a proton and gain a neutron to become carbon-14.
The older technique takes longer and relies on the detection of beta radiation from the decaying carbon-14.