Simple definition of relative dating

The table below shows characteristics of some common radiometric dating methods.

Geologists choose a dating method that suits the materials available in their rocks. Measuring isotopes is particularly useful for dating igneous and some metamorphic rock, but not sedimentary rock.

This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time Most absolute dates for rocks are obtained with radiometric methods.

These use radioactive minerals in rocks as geological clocks.

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They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.For example, the decay of potassium-40 to argon-40 is used to date rocks older than 20,000 years, and the decay of uranium-238 to lead-206 is used for rocks older than 1 million years.Radiocarbon dating measures radioactive isotopes in once-living organic material instead of rock, using the decay of carbon-14 to nitrogen-14.A particular isotope of a particular element is called a nuclide. That is, at some point in time, an atom of such a nuclide will spontaneously change into a different nuclide by radioactive decay.The decay may happen by emission of particles (usually electrons (beta decay), positrons or alpha particles) or by spontaneous nuclear fission, and electron capture.

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