Radioactive dating how stuff works

The uranium-thorium method is often helpful for dating finds in the 40,000- to 500,000-year-old range, too old for radiocarbon but too young for K-Ar or Ar-Ar.Over time, certain kinds of rocks and organic material, such as coral and teeth, are very good at trapping electrons from sunlight and cosmic rays pummeling Earth.While K-Ar dating requires destroying large samples to measure potassium and argon levels separately, Ar-Ar dating can analyze both at once with a single, smaller sample.

These methods — some of which are still used today — provide only an approximate spot within a previously established sequence: Think of it as ordering rather than dating.Both plants and animals exchange carbon with their environment until they die.Afterward, the amount of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in their remains decreases.Biostratigraphy: One of the first and most basic scientific dating methods is also one of the easiest to understand.Layers of rock build one atop another — find a fossil or artifact in one layer, and you can reasonably assume it’s older than anything above it.

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