As you learned in the previous page, carbon dating uses the half-life of Carbon-14 to find the approximate age of certain objects that are 40,000 years old or younger.
In the following section we are going to go more in-depth about carbon dating in order to help you get a better understanding of how it works.
Ever wonder how scientists concluded the age of the earth to be about 4.6 billion years old or how geologists determined the ages of caverns, rocks, volcanoes and the Himalayas? Well, scientists are able to answer all of these wondrous questions and more by use of a process called radiometric or radioactive dating.
Radioactive dating enables geologists to record the history of the earth and its events, such as the dinosaur era, within what they call the geologic time scale.
Carbon, uranium and potassium are just a few examples of elements used in radioactive dating.
Each element is made up of atoms, and within each atom is a central particle called a nucleus.
Since Nitrogen gas makes up about 78 percent of the Earth's air, by volume, a considerable amount of Carbon-14 is produced.
For example, a geologist may examine a cutting where the rocks appear as shown in Figure 1.
Here he can see that some curved sedimentary rocks have been cut vertically by a sheet of volcanic rock called a dyke.
Radioactive dating uses the ratios of isotopes and their specific decay products to determine the ages of rocks, fossils and other substances.
Elements occur naturally in the earth, and they can tell us a lot about our Earth's past.