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A unique characteristic of 14C is that it is constantly formed in the atmosphere.

Production and decay 14C atoms are produced in the upper atmosphere where neutrons from cosmic rays knock a proton from nitrogen-14 atoms.

The answers to these questions can be found in this lesson on the applications of nuclear chemistry.

Are radioactive isotopes helpful in the medical field?

To determine the ages of these specimens, scientists need an isotope with a very long half-life.But this sediment doesn't typically include the necessary isotopes in measurable amounts.Fossils can't form in the igneous rock that usually does contain the isotopes.The following is a brief technical description of how scientists determine dates with radiometric schemes.This section may be omitted if readers do not wish to follow the math (although the math used here is nothing beyond what is typically taught in a good high-school math analysis class).

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