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During the period of a plant's life, the plant is taking in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, which is how the plant makes energy and grows.Animals eat plants, and some eat other animals in the food chain.In the 1940s, scientists succeeded in finding out how long it takes for radiocarbon to disappear, or decay, from a sample of carbon from a dead plant or animal.Willard Libby, the principal scientist, had worked in the team making the nuclear bomb during World War 2, so he was an expert in nuclear and atomic chemistry.The half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for half the radiocarbon in a sample of bone or shell or any carbon sample to disappear.
Today, there are over 130 radiocarbon dating laboratories around the world producing radiocarbon dates for the scientific community.
After twice that time (about 11000 years), another half of that remaining amount will have disappeared.
After another 5568 years, again another half will have disappeared.
Carbon follows this pathway through the food chain on Earth so that all living things are using carbon, building their bodies until they die.
A tiny part of the carbon on the Earth is called Carbon-14 (C14), or radiocarbon.