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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.Precision is enhanced if measurements are taken on multiple samples from different locations of the rock body.Alternatively, if several different minerals can be dated from the same sample and are assumed to be formed by the same event and were in equilibrium with the reservoir when they formed, they should form an isochron. In uranium–lead dating, the concordia diagram is used which also decreases the problem of nuclide loss.Among the best-known techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium–argon dating and uranium–lead dating.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.Finally, correlation between different isotopic dating methods may be required to confirm the age of a sample.
Together with stratigraphic principles, radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geologic time scale.After an organism has been dead for 60,000 years, so little carbon-14 is left that accurate dating cannot be established.On the other hand, the concentration of carbon-14 falls off so steeply that the age of relatively young remains can be determined precisely to within a few decades. If a material that selectively rejects the daughter nuclide is heated, any daughter nuclides that have been accumulated over time will be lost through diffusion, setting the isotopic "clock" to zero.As the mineral cools, the crystal structure begins to form and diffusion of isotopes is less easy.At a certain temperature, the crystal structure has formed sufficiently to prevent diffusion of isotopes.
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All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements, each with its own atomic number, indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.