Dating Methods

Further thoughts about dating

Physics and Chemistry for IG and A level

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 12.43.41This is a fossil skull of Homo Erectus, found in Africa. How old do you think it might be? Dating geological specimens involves an interdisciplinary approach using more than one dating method and cross-validating the results. Absolute dating methods include radiometric, luminescence and incremental dating. Relative dating methods fall under the science of stratigraphy.

Radiometric DatingScreen Shot 2013-12-05 at 12.33.11 Radiometric dating is based on the knowledge that certain naturally occurring radioactive isotopes decay, or transform into a different element, at known rates.  The half-life, or amount of time it takes for half of the measured isotope to decay can be measured directly if it’s quite short, but long half lives can’t – we have to compare the percentage of the isotope today with its stable daughter or we have to know how much isotope there was before the decay started. In other words, an isotope with a very short half-life can’t be used…

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