It is an accurate way to date specific geologic events. This is an enormous branch of geochemistry called Geochronology. There are many radiometric clocks and when applied to appropriate materials, the dating can be very accurate. As one example, the first minerals to crystallize condense from the hot cloud of gasses that surrounded the Sun as it first became a star have been dated to plus or minus 2 million years!! That is pretty accurate!!!
Take, for example, zircon, which is a mineral; its chemical formula is ZiSiO 4 , so there is one zirconium Zi for one silicon Si for four oxygen O. One of the elements that can stand in chemically for zircon is uranium.
Uranium eventually decays into lead, and lead does not normally occur in zircon, except as the radioactive decay product of uranium.Relative and Absolute Dating
Therefore, by measuring the ratio of lead to uranium in a crystal of zircon, you can tell how much uranium there originally was in the crystal, which, combined with knowing the radioactive half-life of uranium, tells you how old the crystal is.
Obviously, if the substance you are measuring is contaminated, then all you know is the age since contamination, or worse, you don't know anything, because the contamination might be in the opposite direction - suppose, for example, you're looking at radio carbon carbon 14, which is produced in the atmosphere by cosmic rays, and which decays into nitrogen. Since you are exposed to the atmosphere and contain carbon, if you get oils from your skin onto an archeological artifact, then attempting to date it using radio carbon will fail because you are measuring the age of the oils on your skin, not the age of the artifact.
This is why crystals are good for radiometric dating: The oldest crystals on Earth that were formed on Earth are zircon crystals, and are approximately 4.
Asteroids in the solar system have been clocked at 4. We assume that the Earth is probably as old as the asteroids, because we believe the solar system to have formed from a collapsing nebula, and that the Earth, being geologically active, has simply destroyed any older zircon crystals that would be its true age, but we can't really be certain.
The building blocks that the Earth is made of, the asteroids are 4. Based on astronomical models of how stars work, we also believe the Sun to be about 4. Radiometric dating is a widely accepted technique that measures the rate of decay of naturally occurring elements that have been incorporated into rocks and fossils.
Every element is defined by the particular number of protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up it's atoms. Sometimes, the number of neutrons within the atom is off. These atoms, with an odd number of neutrons, are called isotopes. Because they do not have the ideal number of neutrons, the isotopes are unstable and over time they will convert into more stable atoms. Scientists can measure the ratio of the parent isotopes compared to the converted isotopes.
The rate of isotope decay is very consistent, and is not effected by environmental changes like heat, temperature, and pressure. This makes radiometric dating quite reliable. However, there are some factors that must be accounted for. For example, sometimes it is possible for a small amount of new "parent" isotopes to be incorporated into the object, skewing the ratio.
This is understood and can be corrected for. Carbon is the most commonly used isotope for dating organic material plants, animals.
Plants and animals continually take in carbon during their lifespan. When they die, they no longer acquire carbon and so we can measure the decay of the isotope to determine when the plant or animal died.
Because carbon decays relatively rapidly compared to other isotopes, it can only be used to date things that are less than 60, years old. Anything older would have so little carbon left that you couldn't accurately measure it. However, the rapid decay allows precise dating - accuracy within just a couple decades. When dating older objects, namely rocks, it is necessary to use other isotopes that take a much longer time to decay.
The most common isotopes used are uranium and uranium there are multiple isotopes of uranium. The uranium isotopes eventually convert into lead isotopes.
In other words, we can predict the age of a rock within two million years out of two-and-a-half billion years. Do you believe radiometric dating is an accurate way to date the earth? Why or why not? Could you also please explain further what radiometric dating is and the process to use it?
For an example of how geologists use radiometric dating, read on: The mass spectrometer is able to give information about the type and amount of isotopes found in the rock.
How does absolute dating fossil
Scientists find the ratio of parent isotope to daughter isotope. By comparing this ratio to the half-life logarithmic scale of the parent isotope, they are able to find the age of the rock or fossil in question. There are several common radioactive isotopes that are used for dating rocks, artifacts and fossils.
The most common is U U is found in many igneous rocks, soil and sediment. U decays to Pb with a half-life of million years. Due to its long half-life, U is the best isotope for radioactive dating, particularly of older fossils and rocks. C is another radioactive isotope that decays to C This isotope is found in all living organisms.
Once an organism dies, the C begins to decay. The half-life of C, however, is only 5, years. Because of its short half-life, the number of C isotopes in a sample is negligible after about 50, years, making it impossible to use for dating older samples.
C is used often in dating artifacts from humans.
Corina Fiore is a writer and photographer living in suburban Philadelphia. She earned a B. Fiore taught high school science for 7 years and offered several teacher workshops to regarding education techniques. She worked as a staff writer for science texts and has been published in Praxis review materials for beginning teachers.
How to Calculate Radioactivity.