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Usually a proton is knocked out of the nitrogen atom's nucleus and is replaced with the neutron.
The proton takes an electron with it and becomes an atom of hydrogen.
...[Some authors have said] they were "not aware of a single significant disagreement" on any sample that had been dated at different labs.
Such enthusiasts continue to claim, incredible though it may seem, that "no gross discrepancies are apparent".
When they strike ordinary atoms in the upper atmosphere, the cosmic rays smash them apart. Some of these neutrons then collide with nitrogen atoms.
This collision is less destructive than the initial collision that produced them.
The radioactive carbon has six protons and eight neutrons in its nucleus, giving it a total atomic mass of 14.
This atom is not stable, and will break down, releasing nuclear energy in the process.
And how could the excessive disagreement between the labs be called insignificant, when it has been the basis for the reappraisal of the standard error associated with each and every date in existence?
However, because it has too many neutrons for the number of protons it contains, it is not a stable atom.
Every 5,730 years, approximately half of this radioactive carbon spontaneously converts itself back into nitrogen by emitting an electron from a neutron.
But in actual practice, we know neither the original ratios nor if the specimen has been contaminated and are forced to make what we hope are reasonable assumptions.
The tiny initial amount of C14, the relatively rapid rate of decay (the half-life of C14 is currently about 5700 years) and the ease with which samples can become contaminated make radiocarbon dating results for samples "older" than about 50,000 years effectively meaningless.