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The carbon-14 atoms combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which plants absorb naturally and incorporate into plant fibers by photosynthesis.

Animals and people take in carbon-14 by eating the plants.

However, at the moment of death, the amount of carbon-14 begins to decrease because it is unstable, while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant in the sample.

Both Carbon-12 and Carbon-13 are stable, but Carbon-14 decays by very weak beta decay to nitrogen-14 with a half-life of approximately 5,730 years.

After the organism dies it stops taking in new carbon.

This alpha radiation is not harmful because it is very localised and any radiation that might escape would be stopped quickly in the air and would be extremely difficult to get into your body.

Beta radiation consists of an electron and is characterized by its high energy and speed.

The ratio of normal carbon (carbon-12) to carbon-14 in the air and in all living things at any given time is nearly constant.

Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14.

That means when alpha rays can cause mutations in any living tissue they come into contact with, potentially causing unusual chemical reactions in the cell and possible cancer.

They are still viewed as the least dangerous form of radiation, as long as it's not ingested or inhaled, because it can be stopped by even a thin sheet of paper or even skin, meaning that it cannot enter the body very easily.

These alarms contain a tiny amount of decaying Americium between two sheets of metal. A small electric current is then passed through one of the sheets and into the second one.

When the field of alpha radiation is blocked by smoke, the alarm goes off.

The first type of radiation, Alpha, consists of two neutrons and two protons bound together to the nucleus of a Helium atom.

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