Radio dating techniques

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Because of the fairly fast decay rate of carbon-14, it can only be used on material up to about 60,000 years old.Geologists use radiocarbon to date such materials as wood and pollen trapped in sediment, which indicates the date of the sediment itself.Later, this date was confirmed by two other dating methods (paleomagnetism and fission tracks), and was widely accepted.Then Richard Leakey found a skull (called KNM-ER 1470) the KBS tuff, a skull that looked far too modern to be 3 million years old.

Another example is luminescence dating, which measures the energy from radioactive decay that is trapped inside nearby crystals.Tests by other scientists using paleomagnetism and fission tracks confirmed the lower date.So by 1980 there was a new, remarkably concordant date for the KBS tuff, and this became the one that was widely accepted.The atoms of some chemical elements have different forms, called isotopes.These break down over time in a process scientists call radioactive decay.

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