Ok, finally had time and read through my nuclear chemistry book some. The reason they use carbon is:
The carbon that is radioactive is carbon-14, when the normal carbon you hear about in general chem is carbon-12. Carbon-14 has two more neutrons than carbon-12, making it unstable and radioactive. This is caused by the flux of cosmic rays interacting with the earth's atmosphere and thought to have been constant or almost constant for more than 70,000 years. Thus, the production of carbon-14 has also been constant. It is a pure negatron emitter and has a half-life of 5730 years. Due to carbon-14 being produced and decaying radioactively, there is an equilibrium present.
Carbon-14 atoms are created in the atmosphere, as mentioned above, and are produced as hot atoms and quickly react with ozone to produce CO2 with carbon-14. This radioactive CO2 is used by plants during photosynthesis, and then animals eat the plants and the CO2 is eventually incorporated into everything else living. Thus, anything that has a radioactive carbon in it, generally has a few and can be used for dating since we know that the half-life is 5730 years.
I hope this isn't too confusing. I'm tired and trying to make sure this isn't to technical and chemical.
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