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A very small percentage of the carbon plants take in is radioactive C-14.
When a plant or animal dies it stops taking in air and food so it should not be able to get any new C-14.
An illustration may help: Imagine you found a candle burning in a room, and you wanted to determine how long it was burning before you found it.
You could measure the present height of the candle (say, seven inches) and the rate of burn (say, an inch per hour).
The C-14 in the plant or animal will begin to decay back to normal nitrogen.
The older an object is, the less carbon-14 it contains.
Plants breathe CO2 and make it part of their tissue.
Animals eat the plants and make it part of their tissues.
This energy converts about 21 pounds of nitrogen into radioactive carbon 14.This is why most people say carbon dating is only good for objects less than 40,000 years old.