How does radioactive dating help determine the age of fossils


Radioactive dating



Dating Fossils – How Are Fossils Dated?

Radiometric dating or radioactive dating is a technique used to date materials such as rocks or carbonin which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed. The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay.

Together how does radioactive dating help determine the age of fossils stratigraphic principlesradiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geological time scale. By allowing the fossills of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary how does radioactive dating help determine the age of fossils. Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.

Different methods of radiometric dating vary in the timescale over which they are accurate and the materials to which they can be applied. All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elementseach with its own atomic numberindicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus. Additionally, elements may exist in different isotopesdkes each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus. A particular isotope of fssils particular element is called a nuclide.

Some nuclides are inherently unstable. That is, at some point in time, an atom of such a nuclide will undergo radioactive decay and spontaneously transform into a different nuclide. This transformation may be accomplished in a number of different ways, including alpha decay emission of alpha particles and beta decay electron emission, positron emission, or electron capture.

Another possibility is spontaneous fission into two or more nuclides. While the moment in time at which a particular nucleus decays is unpredictable, a collection derermine atoms of a radioactive nuclide decays exponentially at a rate described by a parameter known as the half-lifeusually given in units of years when discussing dating techniques. After one half-life has elapsed, one doed of daing atoms of the nuclide in question will have decayed dose a "daughter" nuclide or decay product.

In many cases, the daughter nuclide itself is radioactive, resulting in a decay chaineventually ending with the formation of a stable nonradioactive daughter nuclide; how does radioactive dating help determine the age of fossils step in such a chain is characterized by a distinct half-life. In these cases, usually the half-life of interest in radiometric dating is the longest one in the chain, which is the rate-limiting factor in the ultimate transformation of the radioactive nuclide into its stable daughter.

Isotopic systems that have been exploited for radiometric dating have half-lives ranging from only about 10 years e. For most radioactive nuclides, the half-life depends solely on nuclear properties and is essentially a constant. It is not affected by external factors such as temperaturepressurechemical environment, or presence of a magnetic or electric field. For all other nuclides, the proportion of the original nuclide to its decay products changes in a predictable way as the original nuclide decays over time.

This predictability allows the relative abundances of related nuclides to be used as a clock to measure the time thhe the incorporation of the original fosslls into a material to the present. The basic equation of radiometric dating requires that neither the parent nuclide nor the daughter product can enter or leave the material after its formation. Agd possible confounding effects of contamination of parent and daughter ghe have to be considered, as do the effects of any loss or radioactiv of such isotopes since the sample was created.

It is therefore essential to have as much information as possible about the material being dated and to check for possible signs of alteration. Alternatively, if radiioactive different minerals can be dated from the same sample and are assumed to be formed by the same event and were in equilibrium foswils the reservoir rzdioactive they formed, they should form an isochron.

This can reduce the problem of contamination. In uranium-lead datingthe concordia diagram is used which also decreases the problem of nuclide loss. Finally, correlation between different isotopic dating methods may be required to confirm how does radioactive dating help determine the age of fossils age of a sample. For example, the age of the Amitsoq gneisses from western Greenland radilactive determined to be 3.

Accurate radiometric dating generally requires that the parent has a long enough half-life that it will be present in significant amounts at the time of measurement except as described below under "Dating with short-lived extinct radionuclides"the half-life of the parent is accurately known, and enough of the daughter product is produced to be accurately measured and distinguished from the initial amount of the daughter present in the material.

The procedures used to isolate and analyze the parent and daughter nuclides must be precise and accurate. This normally involves isotope ratio mass spectrometry. The precision of a dating method depends in part on the half-life of the radioactive isotope involved. For instance, carbon has a half-life of 5, years.

After an organism has been dead for 60, years, so little carbon determune left that accurate dating can not be established. On the other hand, the concentration of carbon falls off so steeply that the age of relatively young remains can be determined precisely to within a few decades. If a material that selectively rejects the daughter nuclide is heated, any daughter nuclides that have been accumulated over time will be lost through diffusionsetting the isotopic "clock" to zero.

The temperature at which this happens is known as the closure temperature or blocking temperature and is specific wge a particular material and isotopic system. These temperatures are experimentally determined in the lab by artificially resetting sample minerals using a high-temperature furnace. As the mineral cools, the crystal structure begins to form and diffusion rafioactive isotopes is less easy.



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