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The stable C12 and C13, and the unstable or radioactive Carbon 14. Only one C14 atom exists for every one trillion C12 atoms.
As plants enter the human and animal food chains the C14 dioxide enters their living tissue.
The unreliability of carbon 14 date testing is a great concern to honest archaeologists.
They get particularly concerned when C14 testing shows obviously inaccurate results and they are left in uncertainty about the reliability of the dates that they have previously never questioned.
For radiocarbon dating to be reliable scientists need to make a number of vital assumptions.
Firstly, Dr Libby assumed that C14 decays at a constant rate.
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Some examples of abnormal C14 results include testing of recently harvested, live mollusc shells from the Hawaiian coast that showed that they had died 2000 years ago and snail shells just killed in Nevada, USA, dated in at 27,000 years old.