Radioactive isotope dating techniques

Using fossils as guides, they began to piece together a crude history of Earth, but it was an imperfect history.

All living organisms take up carbon from their environment including a small proportion of the radioactive isotope 14C (formed from nitrogen-14 as a result of cosmic ray bombardment).This method is useful for igneous and metamorphic rocks, which cannot be dated by the stratigraphic correlation method used for sedimentary rocks. Some do not change with time and form stable isotopes (i.e.those that form during chemical reactions without breaking down).Either a whole rock or a single mineral grain can be dated.Some techniques place the sample in a nuclear reactor first to excite the isotopes present, then measure these isotopes using a mass spectrometer (such as in the argon-argon scheme).

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