Geological dating works

The number of parent atoms originally present is simply the number present now plus the number of daughter atoms formed by the decay, both of which are quantities that can be measured.

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Yet, you’ve heard the news: Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1,000 years old. Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own.

But this sediment doesn't typically include the necessary isotopes in measurable amounts.

Fossils can't form in the igneous rock that usually does contain the isotopes.

The most widely known form of radiometric dating is carbon-14 dating.

This is what archaeologists use to determine the age of human-made artifacts. The half-life of carbon-14 is only 5,730 years, so carbon-14 dating is only effective on samples that are less than 50,000 years old.

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