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Radiometric Age Dating
How do scientists figure out how old things are? | Live Science
Radioactive dating uses the decay rates of radioactive substances to measure absolute ages of rocks, minerals and carbon-based substances, according to How Stuff Works. Scientists know how quickly radioactive isotopes decay into other elements over thousands, millions and even billions of years. Scientists calculate ages by measuring how much of the isotope remains in the substance. The key to an age of a substance is the decay-product ratio. The ratio of the original isotope and its decay product determines how many half-lives have occurred since the sample formed. A half-life measures the time it takes for one half of a radio isotope's atoms to break down into another element. For instance, if an object has 50 percent of its decay product, it has been through one half-life.
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Radiocarbon dating also referred to as carbon dating or carbon dating is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon , a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was developed in the late s at the University of Chicago by Willard Libby , who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in It is based on the fact that radiocarbon 14 C is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.
Radioactive dating is a method for calculating the age of rocks and fossils through the concentrations of certain radioactive elements in close proximity to such objects or as a part of their chemical structure. There are various radioactive dating methods used depending on whether what is being analyzed is organic or inorganic, and each process is built upon assumptions about the original state of the material being dated and accepted geological time scales. While the nature of radioactive decay is based on established scientific principles for radioactive elements that are well-proven, the assumptions used to calculate the actual age of an object from these principles is subject to some debate and controversy. Radioactive carbon dating is the most common method used to date fossils of human origin or artifacts from ancient human civilizations.