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Radiometric Age Dating
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Radiometric dating involves dating rocks or other objects by measuring the extent to which different radioactive isotopes or nuclei have decayed. Although the time at which any individual atom will decay cannot be forecast, the time in which any given percentage of a sample will decay can be calculated to varying degrees of accuracy. The time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is known as the half life of the isotope. Some isotopes have half lives longer than the present age of the universe , but they are still subject to the same laws of quantum physics and will eventually decay, even if doing so at a time when all remaining atoms in the universe are separated by astronomical distances. Various elements are used for dating different time periods; ones with relatively short half-lives like carbon or 14 C are useful for dating once-living objects since they include atmospheric carbon from when they were alive from about ten to fifty thousand years old.
Radiometric dating calculates an age in years for geologic materials by measuring the presence of a short-life radioactive element, e. The term applies to all methods of age determination based on nuclear decay of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes. Bates and Jackson To determine the ages in years of Earth materials and the timing of geologic events such as exhumation and subduction, geologists utilize the process of radiometric decay. Geologists use these dates to further define the boundaries of the geologic periods shown on the geologic time scale.