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Absolute dating geology definition

any method of determining the age of earth materials or objects of organic origin based on measurement of either short-lived radioactive elements or the amount of a long-lived radioactive element plus its decay product.

The number of tracks per unit area is a function of time and the uranium concentration.A process for determining the age of an object by measuring the amount of a given radioactive material it contains.If one knows how much of this radioactive material was present initially in the object (by determining how much of the material has decayed), and one knows the half-life of the material, one can deduce the age of the object.These techniques are based upon the measurement of radioactive processes (radiocarbon; potassium-argon, uranium-lead, uranium-thorium, thorium-lead, etc.; fission track; thermoluminescence; optically stimulated luminescence; and electron-spin resonance), chemical processes (amino-acid racemization and obsidian hydration), and the magnetic properties of igneous material, baked clay, and sedimentary deposits (paleomagnetism).Other techniques are occasionally useful, for example, historical or iconographic references to datable astronomical events such as solar eclipses (archaeoastronomy).The varved-clay method is applied with fair accuracy on deposits up to 12,000 years old.

Streams flowing into still bodies commonly deposit layers (varves) of summer silt and winter clay through the year.

When light is used rather than heat to free the accumulated electrons, the technique is known as optically stimulated resonance.

Yet another technique measures the quantity of trapped electrons by detecting the amount of microwave radiation they absorb (electron-spin resonance); it has the advantage that it can be utilized several times on a given sample.

For inorganic materials, such as rocks containing the radioactive isotope rubidium, the amount of the isotope in the object is compared to the amount of the isotope's decay products (in this case strontium).

The object's approximate age can then be figured out using the known rate of decay of the isotope.

Some of the radioactive elements used in dating and their decay products (their stable daughter isotopes) are uranium-238 to lead-206, uranium-235 to lead-207, uranium-234 to thorium-230, thorium-232 to lead-208, samarium-147 to neodymium-143, rubidium-87 to strontium-87, and potassium-40 to argon-40.