In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.
There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.
That’s because zircon is super tough – it resists weathering. Each radioactive isotope works best for particular applications.
The half-life of carbon 14, for example, is 5,730 years.
Look for “absolute” ages such as cornerstones, dates carved into fresh concrete, or dates stamped on manhole covers.
Absolute age dating: Have students work alone or in pairs to find an article or paper that uses radiometric age dating.Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.Absolute age dating is like saying you are 15 years old and your grandfather is 77 years old.Chart of a few different isotope half lifes: In reality, geologists tend to mix and match relative and absolute age dates to piece together a geologic history.If a rock has been partially melted, or otherwise metamorphosed, that causes complications for radiometric (absolute) age dating as well.The narrower a range of time that an animal lived, the better it is as an index of a specific time.No bones about it, fossils are important age markers.For example, which is older, the bricks in a building or the building itself?Are there repairs or cracks in the sidewalk that came after the sidewalk was built?Unlike people, you can’t really guess the age of a rock from looking at it.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.