Age dating rocks

Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a fossil by using radiometric dating to measure the decay of isotopes, either within the fossil or more often the rocks associated with it.

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By measuring the ratio of the amount of the original (parent) isotope to the amount of the (daughter) isotopes that it breaks down into an age can be determined.

This uses radioactive minerals that occur in rocks and fossils almost like a geological clock.

It’s often much easier to date volcanic rocks than the fossils themselves or the sedimentary rocks they are found in.

To see how we actually use this information to date rocks, consider the following: Usually, we know the amount, N, of an isotope present today, and the amount of a daughter element produced by decay, D*.

By definition, D* = N-1) (2) Now we can calculate the age if we know the number of daughter atoms produced by decay, D* and the number of parent atoms now present, N.

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