Flexi Says: The atmosphere contains three isotopes of carbon: carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14. Only carbon-14 is radioactive; it has a half-life of 5,730 years. The amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is tiny and has been relatively stable through time. Plants remove all three isotopes of carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Animals consume this carbon when they eat plants or other animals that have eaten plants. After the organism’s death, the carbon-14 decays to stable nitrogen-14 by releasing a beta particle. The nitrogen atoms are lost to the atmosphere, but the amount of carbon-14 that has decayed can be estimated by measuring the proportion of radioactive carbon-14 to stable carbon-12. As time passes, the amount of carbon-14 decreases relative to the amount of carbon-12. . Archeological sites are good for radiocarbon dating.