What does radioactive dating enables geologists to determine

Recent puzzling observations of tiny variations in nuclear decay rates have led some to question the science of using decay rates to determine the relative ages of rocks and organic materials. Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST , working with researchers from Purdue University, the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Wabash College, tested the hypothesis that solar radiation might affect the rate at which radioactive elements decay and found no detectable effect. Atoms of radioactive isotopes are unstable and decay over time by shooting off particles at a fixed rate, transmuting the material into a more stable substance. For instance, half the mass of carbon, an unstable isotope of carbon, will decay into nitrogen over a period of 5, years. The unswerving regularity of this decay allows scientists to determine the age of extremely old organic materials -- such as remains of Paleolithic campfires -- with a fair degree of precision. The decay of uranium, which has a half-life of nearly 4.
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What does radioactive dating enable geologists to determine?

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Radiometric Dating

Radiometric dating , radioactive dating or radioisotope dating is a technique used to date materials such as rocks or carbon , in 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 with stratigraphic principles , radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geologic time scale. 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. Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.
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What is Radioactive Dating? - Definition & Facts

Many people assume that the dates scientists quote of millions of years are as reliable as our knowledge of the structure of the atom or nuclear power. But the basic concept of radioactive dating, sometimes called radiometric dating, is not difficult, especially since all of us regularly calculate how much time has passed: A swimming race is a familiar situation that illustrates the simple principles involved in measuring time.
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Jump to content. Radioactive elements transmute into more stable materials by shooting off particles at a steady rate. For instance, half the mass of carbon, an unstable isotope of carbon, will decay into nitrogen over a period of 5, years. Archaeologists routinely use radiometric dating to determine the age of materials such as ancient campfires and mammoth teeth.
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