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Relative dating involves radioactive isotopes

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However, rocks and other objects in nature do not give off such obvious clues about how long they have been around.

So, we rely on radiometric dating to calculate their ages.

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.

These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth's surface is moving and changing.

As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.

Despite seeming like a relatively stable place, the Earth's surface has changed dramatically over the past 4.6 billion years.

There are different types of radiation: specifically, gamma, alpha and beta radiation. This process of radioactive decay eventually leads to the atoms becoming a different element and achieving stability.The age of the fossil must be determined so it can be compared to other fossil species from the same time period.Understanding the ages of related fossil species helps scientists piece together the evolutionary history of a group of organisms.A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.However, by itself a fossil has little meaning unless it is placed within some context.So, if you know the radioactive isotope found in a substance and the isotope's half-life, you can calculate the age of the substance. Well, a simple explanation is that it is the time required for a quantity to fall to half of its starting value.