First use of radiometric dating

The decay constants for most of these systems have been confirmed in other ways, adding strength to our argument for the age of the earth., so there is one zirconium (Zi) for one silicon (Si) for four oxygen (O).One of the elements that can stand in chemically for zircon is uranium.

This gives geologists great confidence that the method correctly determines when that rock formed.For example, a problem I have worked on involving the eruption of a volcano at what is now Naples, Italy, occurred 38500 years ago with a plus or minus of 300 years.So, when the materials are appropriate and one carefully avoids contamination and re setting radiometric clocks can be VERY ACCURATE.All radioactive isotopes have a characteristic half-life (the amount of time that it takes for one half of the original number of atoms of that isotope to decay).By measuring the parent isotope (radioactive) and the daughter isotope (radiogenic) in a system (for example, a rock), we can tell how long the system has been closed (in our example, when the rock formed).Uranium eventually decays into lead, and lead does not normally occur in zircon, except as the radioactive decay product of uranium.Therefore, by measuring the ratio of lead to uranium in a crystal of zircon, you can tell how much uranium there originally was in the crystal, which, combined with knowing the radioactive half-life of uranium, tells you how old the crystal is.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 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.

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