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Once an organism dies, it stops taking in carbon-14.The carbon-14 it contained at the time of death decays over a long period of time, and the radioactivity of the material decreases.Anything over about 50,000 years old, should theoretically have no detectable C.

Overall, the energy of the Earth's magnetic field has been decreasing,[5] so more C is being produced now than in the past.The amount of carbon-14 in the air has stayed the same for thousands of years.There is a small amount of radioactive carbon-14 in all living organisms because it enters the food chain.Accordingly, carbon dating carefully applied to items from historical times can be useful.However, even with such historical calibration, archaeologists do not regard C produced and therefore dating the system.The amount of cosmic rays reaching the Earth varies with the sun's activity, and with the Earth's passage through magnetic clouds as the solar system travels around the Milky Way galaxy.The strength of the Earth's magnetic field affects the amount of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere.One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or C ratio gets smaller.So, we have a “clock” which starts ticking the moment something dies.Materials that originally came from living things, such as wood and natural fibres, can be dated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 they contain.For example, in 1991, two hikers discovered a mummified man, preserved for centuries in the ice on an alpine mountain.

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