Dating rocks and fossils using radioisotopes

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Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.Absolute age dating is like saying you are 15 years old and your grandfather is 77 years old.Metamorphic rocks are not always easy to date using radio-isotopes.Results obtained usually signify the "date" of the metamorphism, but they may also yield the "age" of the original volcanic (or sedimentary) rock. The age of a rock can be calculated if its ratio of uranium to lead is known. This is unstable and eventually decays to lead, which is stable.The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.

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. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows.

Relative age dating also means paying attention to crosscutting relationships.

Say for example that a volcanic dike, or a fault, cuts across several sedimentary layers, or maybe through another volcanic rock type.

Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods.

Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.

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