Is there a science to dating

11-Jun-2019 11:17 by 10 Comments

Is there a science to dating

Researchers can first apply an absolute dating method to the layer.

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Both methods date rock instead of organic material. But unlike radiocarbon dating, the older the sample, the more accurate the dating — researchers typically use these methods on finds at least 500,000 years old.Both plants and animals exchange carbon with their environment until they die.Afterward, the amount of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in their remains decreases.Measuring carbon-14 in bones or a piece of wood provides an accurate date, but only within a limited range.Says Shea: “Beyond 40,000 years old, the sample is so small, and the contamination risk so great, that the margin of error is thousands of years.Sometimes only one method is possible, reducing the confidence researchers have in the results. “They’re based on ‘it’s that old because I say so,’ a popular approach by some of my older colleagues,” says Shea, laughing, “though I find I like it myself as I get more gray hair.” Kidding aside, dating a find is crucial for understanding its significance and relation to other fossils or artifacts.

Methods fall into one of two categories: relative or absolute.Paleontologists still commonly use biostratigraphy to date fossils, often in combination with paleomagnetism and tephrochronology.A submethod within biostratigraphy is faunal association: Sometimes researchers can determine a rough age for a fossil based on established ages of other fauna from the same layer — especially microfauna, which evolve faster, creating shorter spans in the fossil record for each species.While K-Ar dating requires destroying large samples to measure potassium and argon levels separately, Ar-Ar dating can analyze both at once with a single, smaller sample.Uranium series dating: U-series dating includes a number of methods, each based on different uranium isotopes’ decay rates.Before more precise absolute dating tools were possible, researchers used a variety of comparative approaches called relative dating.

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