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Thus the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in living animal tissue is also virtually the same as the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the atmosphere at any given time.This ratio is the same for all organisms across the globe at a given time due to the mixing of the atmosphere mentioned above.

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Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.Radiocarbon, or carbon 14, is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms.It is rapidly oxidized in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the global carbon cycle.Part of the result of these collisions is the production of radiocarbon (C, pronounced "c fourteen"), carbon atoms which are chemically the same as stable carbon, but have two extra neutrons.Radiocarbon is not stable; over time radiocarbon atoms decay into nitrogen atoms.

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