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First use of radiometric dating

This is an enormous branch of geochemistry called Geochronology.

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We know it is accurate because radiometric dating is based on the radioactive decay of unstable isotopes.Hope that helps, and please ask if you'd like more details! I think that I will start by answering the second part of your question, just because I think that will make the answer to the first question clearer.Radiometric dating is the use of radioactive and radiogenic (those formed from the decay of radioactive parents) isotopes (isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei) to determine the age of something.It is commonly used in earth science to determine the age of rock formations or features or to figure out how fast geologic processes take place (for example, how fast marine terraces on Santa Cruz island are being uplifted).Radiometric dating relies on the principle of radioactive decay.We have also obtained a very similar age by measuring Pb isotopes in materials from earth.I should mention that the decay constants (basically a value that indicates how fast a certain radioactive isotope will decay) for some of these isotope systems were calculated by assuming that the age of the earth is 4.56 billion years, meaning that we will also calculate an age of 4.56 billion years if we use that decay constant.We have dated meteorites using Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Pb-Pb, Re-Os, and Lu-Hf isotope systems and have obtained very similar ages.The fact that the age we calculate is reproducible for these different systems is significant.We call the original, unstable isotope (Uranium) the "parent", and the product of decay (Lead) the "daughter".From careful physics and chemistry experiments, we know that parents turn into daughters at a very consistent, predictable rate.


  1. Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts.

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