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Carbon 14 is continually being created in the Earth's atmosphere by the interaction of nitrogen and gamma rays from outer space.
Since atmospheric carbon 14 arises at about the same rate that the atom decays, the Earth's levels of carbon 14 have remained constant.
When a date is quoted, the reader should be aware that if it is an uncalibrated date (a term used for dates given in radiocarbon years) it may differ substantially from the best estimate of the actual calendar date, both because it uses the wrong value for the half-life of and each component is also referred to individually as a carbon exchange reservoir.
The different elements of the carbon exchange reservoir vary in how much carbon they store, and in how long it takes for the These organisms contain about 1.3% of the carbon in the reservoir; sea organisms have a mass of less than 1% of those on land and are not shown on the diagram.
Back in the 1940s, the American chemist Willard Libby used this fact to determine the ages of organisms long dead.
Animals eat the plants, and ultimately the radiocarbon is distributed throughout the biosphere.
The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of radiocarbon in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.
Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).
Radiocarbon ages are still calculated using this half-life, and are known as "Conventional Radiocarbon Age".
Since the calibration curve (Int Cal) also reports past atmospheric concentration using this conventional age, any conventional ages calibrated against the Int Cal curve will produce a correct calibrated age.