Fossil dating radioactive decay

Scientists find out the age of a dinosaur fossil by dating not only the rocks in which it lies, but those below and above it.

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In an undisturbed sequence of rocks, such as in a cliff face, it is easy to get a rough idea of the ages of the individual strata – the oldest lies at the bottom and the youngest lies at the top.This is because new sediments are always laid down on top of sediments that have already been deposited.So, we rely on radiometric dating to calculate their ages.Radiometric dating, or radioactive dating as it is sometimes called, is a method used to date rocks and other objects based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes.The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.

So, if you know the radioactive isotope found in a substance and the isotope's half-life, you can calculate the age of the substance. Well, a simple explanation is that it is the time required for a quantity to fall to half of its starting value.So, you might say that the 'full-life' of a radioactive isotope ends when it has given off all of its radiation and reaches a point of being non-radioactive.The Age of Dinosaurs was so many millions of years ago that it is very difficult to date exactly.The universe is full of naturally occurring radioactive elements.Radioactive atoms are inherently unstable; over time, radioactive "parent atoms" decay into stable "daughter atoms." When molten rock cools, forming what are called igneous rocks, radioactive atoms are trapped inside. By measuring the quantity of unstable atoms left in a rock and comparing it to the quantity of stable daughter atoms in the rock, scientists can estimate the amount of time that has passed since that rock formed.Geologists call this the principle of lateral continuity.