Fossil dating relative and radioactive

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The discovery of means for absolute dating in the early 1900s was a huge advance.The methods are all based on radioactive decay: The first radiometric dates, generated about 1920, showed that the Earth was hundreds of millions, or billions, of years old.

These samples are carefully cataloged and analyzed with a mass spectrometer.As the isotopes decay, they give off particles from their nucleus and become a different isotope.The parent isotope is the original unstable isotope, and daughter isotopes are the stable product of the decay. In the first 5,730 years, the organism will lose half of its C-14 isotopes.Paleontologists now apply sophisticated mathematical techniques to assess the relative quality of particular fossil successions, as well as the entire fossil record.These demonstrate that, of course, we do not know everything (and clearly never will), but we know enough.

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