When asked for your age, it's likely you won't slip with the exception of a recent birthday mistake. But for the sprawling sphere we call home, age is a much trickier matter. Before so-called radiometric dating, Earth's age was anybody's guess. Our planet was pegged at a youthful few thousand years old by Bible readers by counting all the "begats" since Adam as late as the end of the 19th century, with physicist Lord Kelvin providing another nascent estimate of million years.
Geologic Time - Geology (U.S. National Park Service)
Radiometric dating , radioactive dating or radioisotope dating is a technique which is used to date materials such as rocks or carbon , in which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed. The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay. Together with stratigraphic principles , radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geologic time scale. By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.
Radiometric Age Dating
The rubidium-strontium dating method is a radiometric dating technique used by scientists to determine the age of rocks and minerals from the quantities they contain of specific isotopes of rubidium 87 Rb and strontium 87 Sr, 86 Sr. Development of this process was aided by German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann , who later went on to discover nuclear fission in December The utility of the rubidium — strontium isotope system results from the fact that 87 Rb one of two naturally occurring isotopes of rubidium decays to 87 Sr with a half-life of In addition, Rb is a highly incompatible element that, during partial melting of the mantle, prefers to join the magmatic melt rather than remain in mantle minerals. As a result, Rb is enriched in crustal rocks.
Some chemical elements have several isotopes. Some of those are unstable and fall apart, releasing radiation. We've figured out how fast every kind of isotope falls apart. If a piece of rock contains a quarter of the amount of carbon it had in the beginning, we know two halflives have past so the sample must be close to years old.