Origin of radiometric dating

There are a number of long-lived radioactive isotopes used in radiometric dating, and a variety of ways they are used to determine the ages of rocks, minerals, and organic materials.

Some of the isotopic parents, end-product daughters, and half-lives involved are listed in Table 1.

By the early 1960s, most of the major radiometric dating techniques now in use had been tested and their general limitations were known.

No technique, of course, is ever completely perfected and refinement continues to this day, but for more than two decades radiometric dating methods have been used to measure reliably the ages of rocks, the Earth, meteorites, and, since 1969, the Moon.

The main point is that the ages of rock formations are rarely based on a single, isolated age measurement.

On the contrary, radiometric ages are verified whenever possible and practical, and are evaluated by considering other relevant data.

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By the mid- to late 1800s, geologists, physicists, and chemists were searching for ways to quantify the age of the Earth.

he question of the ages of the Earth and its rock formations and features has fascinated philosophers, theologians, and scientists for centuries, primarily because the answers put our lives in temporal perspective.

Until the 18th century, this question was principally in the hands of theologians, who based their calculations on biblical chronology.

Second, the rock or mineral must not lose or gain either potassium or argon from the time of its formation to the time of analysis.

By many experiments over the past three decades, geologists have learned which types of rocks and minerals meet these requirements and which do not.

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