Can radiometric dating tell us

Among the best-known techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium–argon dating and uranium–lead dating.

By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.

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 temperature, pressure, chemical environment, or presence of a magnetic or electric field.

The temperature at which this happens is known as the closure temperature or blocking temperature and is specific to a particular material and isotopic system.

These temperatures are experimentally determined in the lab by artificially resetting sample minerals using a high-temperature furnace.

Finally, correlation between different isotopic dating methods may be required to confirm the age of a sample.

In many cases, the daughter nuclide itself is radioactive, resulting in a decay chain, eventually ending with the formation of a stable (nonradioactive) daughter nuclide; each step in such a chain is characterized by a distinct half-life.The only exceptions are nuclides that decay by the process of electron capture, such as beryllium-7, strontium-85, and zirconium-89, whose decay rate may be affected by local electron density.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.The possible confounding effects of contamination of parent and daughter isotopes have to be considered, as do the effects of any loss or gain 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.

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