Because it reacts identically to C-12 and C-13, C-14 becomes attached to complex organic molecules through photosynthesis in plants and becomes part of their molecular makeup.

Animals eating those plants in turn absorb Carbon-14 as well as the stable isotopes.

The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay.

Additionally, elements may exist in different isotopes, with each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.

A particular isotope of a particular element is called a nuclide. That is, at some point in time, an atom of such a nuclide will undergo radioactive decay and spontaneously transform into a different nuclide.

The basic equation of radiometric dating requires that neither the parent nuclide nor the daughter product can enter or leave the material after its formation.

The possible confounding effects of contamination of parent and daughter isotopes have to be considered, as do the effects of any loss or gain of such isotopes since the sample was created.

Isotopic systems that have been exploited for radiometric dating have half-lives ranging from only about 10 years (e.g., tritium) to over 100 billion years (e.g., samarium-147).

For most radioactive nuclides, the half-life depends solely on nuclear properties and is essentially a constant.Together with stratigraphic principles, radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geologic time scale.Among the best-known techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium–argon dating and uranium–lead dating.This is actually a mini-simulator, in that it processes a different sample each time and generates different dates.Radiometric dating or radioactive dating is a technique used to date materials such as rocks or carbon, in which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed.This process of ingesting C-14 continues as long as the plant or animal remains alive.