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Thus the breakdown of radioactive atoms is a self-corrective process; those Isotopes which have too many neutrons loose a neutron in the beta decay, and those Isotopes which have too few neutrons gain a neutron in the positron decay.Looking specifically at Carbon-14, we see that it is a Beta emitter with a half life of 5730 years.Since protons and neutrons weigh about the same, the atomic mass of ordinary carbon is 6 6 = 12.It is called "Carbon-12," which is abbreviated "C." The fact that the atom has six protons is what makes it carbon.Also you will see that the Mass and Atomic Numbers in the equation are equal on both sides of the equation.The atoms that we are particularly interested in are the ones that make up the earth's atmosphere.The conversion of a nitrogen atom to a carbon atom does decrease the total number of nitrogen atoms, but it makes about as much difference as removing a teaspoon of water from the Pacific Ocean.

Most carbon atoms have six positively charged protons and six uncharged neutrons.

Two other reactions (Oxygen-17 reacting with neutrons, and He-4 reacting with Carbon-13) both produce Carbon-14, but with much smaller yields.

It has been estimated that about 21 pounds of The amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere is effectively constant.

Notice that the farther away the Mass Number gets from 12-13, the faster they break down (The blue numbers indicate half-lives, the time it takes for one half of the atoms in a sample to break down.).

So the farther the carbon is from the norm, the more unstable it is. They have too many neutrons so they breakdown, releasing a beta particle which effectively converts a neutron into a proton.

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Three of the Carbon isotopes (C) are found in nature.

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