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Radioactive elements decay at a certain constant rate and this is the basis of radiometric dating.
But, the decay elements need to be set, much like you would re-set a stop watch for a runner, to ensure an accurate measurement.
However, sedimentary rocks can be age dated if a volcanic ash horizon or a diabase sill or dyke can be found within the sequence.
For example, if you find a dinosaur bone in a sedimentary sequence and you find an ash layer 10 meter above the bone and another ash layer 20 meters below it, you can determine the age of the two ash layers.
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Read the passage in this science printable to learn about the history of radioactive dating and its uses.
The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.
The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 79,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.
Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.However, rocks and other objects in nature do not give off such obvious clues about how long they have been around.