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Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or C ratio gets smaller.We will deal with carbon dating first and then with the other dating methods.Carbon has unique properties that are essential for life on Earth.

An hourglass is a helpful analogy to explain how geologists calculate the ages of rocks.PART 1: Back to Basics PART 2: Problems with the Assumptions PART 3: Making Sense of the Patterns This three-part series will help you properly understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates, and the clues about what really happened in the past.Most people think that radioactive dating has proven the earth is billions of years old.When we look at sand in an hourglass, we can estimate how much time has passed based on the amount of sand that has fallen to the bottom.Radioactive rocks offer a similar “clock.” Radioactive atoms, such as uranium (the parent isotopes), decay into stable atoms, such as lead (the daughter isotopes), at a measurable rate.

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To date a radioactive rock, geologists first measure the “sand grains” in the top glass bowl (the parent radioisotope, such as uranium-238 or potassium-40).

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