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The ratio of normal carbon (carbon-12) to carbon-14 in the air and in all living things at any given time is nearly constant.
Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14.
When these energetic neutrons collide with a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom it turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons).
Since Nitrogen gas makes up about 78 percent of the Earth's air, by volume, a considerable amount of Carbon-14 is produced.
The lake, in this case, has a different radiocarbon reservoir than that of the majority of the radiocarbon in the biosphere and therefore an accurate radiocarbon age requires that a correction be made to account for it.
One of the most commonly referenced reservoir effects concerns the ocean.
To measure the amount of radiocarbon left in a artifact, scientists burn a small piece to convert it into carbon dioxide gas.
Reservoir corrections for the world oceans can be found at the Marine Reservoir Correction Database, a searchable database online at Queen's University, Belfast and the University of Washington.
The carbon-14 atoms combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which plants absorb naturally and incorporate into plant fibers by photosynthesis.
Animals and people take in carbon-14 by eating the plants.
By measuring the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of the artifact.
[A Conventional Radiocarbon Age or CRA, does not take into account specific differences between the activity of different carbon reservoirs.