This works because elements have a life cycle known as a “half-life.” A half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for an isotope to lose half of its atoms as a result of decaying.When an isotope decays, it often becomes a different kind of element altogether.Radiometric dating is a process of identifying the age of a material based on known half-lives of decaying radioactive materials found in both organic and inorganic objects.Radiometric dating is often used to determine the age of rocks, bones, and ancient artifacts.The discovery gave scientists a tool for dating rocks that contain radioactive elements.Many elements have naturally occurring isotopes, varieties of the element that have different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus.When I first got involved in the creationism/evolution controversy, back in early 1995, I looked around for an article or book that explained radiometric dating in a way that nonscientists could understand. Young-Earth creationists -- that is, creationists who believe that Earth is no more than 10,000 years old -- are fond of attacking radiometric dating methods as being full of inaccuracies and riddled with sources of error. All these methods point to Earth being very, very old -- several billions of years old.
Radiometric dating is based upon the fact that some forms of chemical elements are radioactive, which was discovered in 1896 by Henri Becquerel and his assistants, Marie and Pierre Curie. Radiometric dating methods are the strongest direct evidence that geologists have for the age of the Earth.When I first became interested in the creation-evolution debate, in late 1994, I looked around for sources that clearly and simply explained what radiometric dating is and why young-Earth creationists are driven to discredit it.The atoms of some chemical elements have different forms, called isotopes.These break down over time in a process scientists call radioactive decay.Because this new element (decay product) remains on or within the object, scientists can easily determine how old the object is. A mass spectrometer is a fundamental device in any radiometric dating experiment.Mass spectrometers can be used to measure isotopic samples as small as one 1 nanogram.Contents: The half-life of a radioactive isotope is defined as the time it takes half of a sample of the element to decay.A mathematical formula can be used to calculate the half-life from the number of breakdowns per second in a sample of the isotope.While not all objects have the same isotopes, both living and nonliving objects have some sort of decaying, radioactive isotope that can be used based on known decay rates. An isotope of some sort is located and isolated within an object.That isotope is then compared to its decaying product and scientists are able to use known decay rates to determine how old the initial isotope is.