Cosmic rays enter the earth's atmosphere in large numbers every day.
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When granite rock hardens, it freezes radioactive elements in place.
The most common radioactive element in granite is Uranium-238.
The carbon-14 atoms are always decaying, but they are being replaced by new carbon-14 atoms at a constant rate.
At this moment, your body has a certain percentage of carbon-14 atoms in it, and all living plants and animals have the same percentage.
It is not uncommon for a cosmic ray to collide with an atom in the atmosphere, creating a secondary cosmic ray in the form of an energetic neutron, and for these energetic neutrons to collide with nitrogen atoms.
When the neutron collides, a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons).
When a living thing dies, its radiocarbon loss (decay) is no longer balanced by intake, so its radiocarbon steadily decreases with a half-life of 5,730 years.
If we knew the amount of carbon-14 in an organism when it died, we could attempt to date the time of death.
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