Zircon radiometric dating
Another limitation is that carbon-14 can only tell you when something was last alive, not when it was used.
A limitation with all forms of radiometric dating is that they depend on the presence of certain elements in the substance to be dated.
Some isotopes have half lives longer than the present age of the universe, but they are still subject to the same laws of quantum physics and will eventually decay, even if doing so at a time when all remaining atoms in the universe are separated by astronomical distances.
Various elements are used for dating different time periods; ones with relatively short half-lives like carbon-14 (or C) are useful for dating once-living objects (since they include atmospheric carbon from when they were alive) from about ten to fifty thousand years old. Longer-lived isotopes provide dating information for much older times.
It suffers from the problem that rubidium and strontium are very mobile and may easily enter rocks at a much later date to that of formation.
This method for rock dating is based on the decay of potassium-40 into argon: until the rock solidifies, argon can escape, so it can in theory date the formation of rock.
Note that although carbon-14 dating receives a lot of attention, since it can give information about the relatively recent past, it is rarely used in geology (and almost never used to date fossils).
Carbon-14 decays almost completely within 100,000 years of the organism dying, and many fossils and rock strata are hundreds of times older than that.
The half-life of carbon-14 is approximately 5,730 years. Since the quantity represents 13% (or 13/100ths) of , it follows that This is based on the decay of rubidium isotopes to strontium isotopes, and can be used to date rocks or to relate organisms to the rocks on which they formed.
The key is to measure an isotope that has had time to decay a measurable amount, but not so much as to only leave a trace remaining.
Given isotopes are useful for dating over a range from a fraction of their half life to about four or five times their half life.
This is consistent with the assumption that each decay event is independent and its chance does not vary over time.
The solution is: where is the half-life of the element, is the time expired since the sample contained the initial number atoms of the nuclide, and is the remaining amount of the nuclide.
Most rocks contain uranium, allowing uranium-lead and similar methods to date them.