Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic. Radiometric dating is used to estimate the age of rocks and other objects based on the fixed decay rate of radioactive isotopes. Learn about half-life and how it is used in different dating methods, such as uranium-lead dating and radiocarbon dating, in this video lesson. Radiometric Dating The aging process in human beings is easy to see. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows. However, rocks and other objects in nature do not give off such obvious clues about how long they have been around.
The absolute age of a wide variety of rocks, fossils, and human artifacts can be determined by various laboratory procedures. Deciding which test to perform depends on the composition and believed approximate age of a particular specimen. For example Carbon 14 is often the method of choice for scientists dating organic artifacts like wood, charcoal, bone, and teeth that are less than about 40, years. Carbon 14 as an isotope exists in Earth's atmosphere at more or less constant concentrations relative to other carbon isotopes there are exceptions, which published tables compensate for. When living tissue dies the Carbon 14 begins to slowly decay. After 40, years there isn't enough of it left to accurately measure, so to date anything much older requires use of one or more of the other age-determination methods.
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.
The initial ratio has particular importance for studying the chemical evolution of the Earth's mantle and crust, as we discussed in the section on igneous rocks. K-Ar Dating 40K is the radioactive isotope of K, and makes up 0. Since K is one of the 10 most abundant elements in the Earth's crust, the decay of 40K is important in dating rocks. But this scheme is not used because 40Ca can be present as both radiogenic and non-radiogenic Ca.