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Half-lives of these isotopes and the parent-to-daughter ratio in a given rock sample can be measured, then a relatively simple calculation yields the absolute (radiometric) date at which the parent began to decay, i.e., the age of the rock.
Of the three basic rock types, igneous rocks are most suited for radiometric dating.
Following this law, sedimentary rocks can be “dated” by their characteristic fossil content.Simply stated, each bed in a sequence of sedimentary rocks (or layered volcanic rocks) is younger than the bed below it and older than the bed above it.This law follows two basic assumptions: (1) the beds were originally deposited near horizontal, and (2) the beds were not overturned after their deposition.Rates of radioactive decay are constant and measured in terms of half-life, the time it takes half of a parent isotope to decay into a stable daughter isotope.Some rock-forming minerals contain naturally occurring radioactive isotopes with very long half-lives unaffected by chemical or physical conditions that exist after the rock is formed.
The nuclear decay of radioactive isotopes is a process that behaves in a clock-like fashion and is thus a useful tool for determining the absolute age of rocks.