Radiometric dating , radioactive dating or radioisotope dating is a technique which is used to date materials such as rocks or carbon , in which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed. The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay. Together with stratigraphic principles , radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geologic time scale. By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change. Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.
Geologic Time | Definition of Geologic Time by Merriam-Webster
Geologists count back more than 4 billion years to the oldest Earth materials. Have you ever tried to count to a million? Counting once per second easy at the start, but tough when you reach the hundred-thousand mark , 24 hours per day, seven days per week no weekends off , it would take you 11 days, 14 hours to count to one million! There are a thousand millions in a billion, so counting to a billion would take you approximately 32 years. Taking this one step further, it is not humanly possible to count to 4. To help comprehend the length of geologic time, some analogies are provided below. Select an analogy:.
Relative dating is used to arrange geological events, and the rocks they leave behind, in a sequence. The method of reading the order is called stratigraphy layers of rock are called strata. Relative dating does not provide actual numerical dates for the rocks. Next time you find a cliff or road cutting with lots of rock strata, try working out the age order using some simple principles:.
Earth is about 4. Geologists divide this age into major and minor units of time that describe the kinds of geological processes and life forms that existed in them. Earth's geologic record was formed by constant change, just like those that occur routinely today. Though some events were catastrophic, much of Earth's geology was influenced by normal weather, erosion, and other processes spread over very long geologic ages. Accurate dating of the geologic ages is fundamental to the study of geology and paleontology, and provides important context to the life sciences, meteorology, oceanography, geophysics, and hydrology.