The latest high-tech equipment permits reliable results to be obtained even with microscopic samples.
Radiometric dating is self-checking, because the data (after certain preliminary calculations are made) are fitted to a straight line (an "isochron") by means of standard linear regression methods of statistics.
Since 1955 the estimate for the age of the Earth has been based on the assumption that certain meteorite lead isotope ratios are equivalent to the primordial lead isotope ratios on Earth.
In 1972 this assumption was shown to be highly questionable.
magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this.
For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.
Learn how scientists determine the ages of rocks and fossils.
Consider the following scenario: Paul the Paleontologist is a very famous scientist who has studied dinosaur bones all over the world.Before 1955, ages for the Earth based on uranium/thorium/lead ratios were generally about a billion years younger than the currently popular 4.5 billion years. old Earth is reviewed and deficiencies of the uranium/lead method are discussed.The basic theory of radiometric dating is briefly reviewed.The slope of the line determines the date, and the closeness of fit is a measure of the statistical reliability of the resulting date.Technical details on how these dates are calculated are given in Radiometric dating. As with any experimental procedure in any field of science, these measurements are subject to certain "glitches" and "anomalies," as noted in the literature.