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Forms of radiometric dating

Radioactive decay[ edit ] Example of a radioactive decay chain from lead Pb to lead Pb. The final decay product, lead Pb , is stable and can no longer undergo spontaneous radioactive decay. All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements , each with its own atomic number , indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus. Additionally, elements may exist in different isotopes , with each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus. A particular isotope of a particular element is called a nuclide. Some nuclides are inherently unstable.
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The London Artifact (Texas)

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The London Artifact (Texas) - Bad Archaeology

So, how do we know how old a fossil is? There are two main methods determining a fossils age, relative dating and absolute dating. Relative dating is used to determine a fossils approximate age by comparing it to similar rocks and fossils of known ages. Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a fossil by using radiometric dating to measure the decay of isotopes, either within the fossil or more often the rocks associated with it.
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How Old is the Earth

Rubidium-strontium dating[ edit ] This is based on the decay of rubidium isotopes to strontium isotopes, and can be used to date rocks or to relate organisms to the rocks on which they formed. It suffers from the problem that rubidium and strontium are very mobile and may easily enter rocks at a much later date to that of formation. One problem is that potassium is also highly mobile and may move into older rocks. Due to the long half-life of uranium it is not suitable for short time periods, such as most archaeological purposes, but it can date the oldest rocks on earth. This leaves out important information which would tell you how precise is the dating result.
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Links Radiometric Dating During the 19th century, and even well into the twentieth, geological chronology was very crude. Dates were estimated according to the supposed rate of deposition of rocks, and figures of several hundred million years were bandied out; usually arrived at through inspired guesswork rather than anything else. With the discovery of radiometric dating, it became possible for the first time to attempt precise figures. Radiometric dating works on the principle that certain atoms and isotopes are unstable.
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