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The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay.
and is now the principal source of information about the absolute age of rocks and other geological features, including the age of fossilized life forms or the age of the Earth itself, and can also be used to date a wide range of natural and man-made materials.
Less astute creationists often conflate carbon dating with other forms of radiometric dating, attempting to "disprove" the true age of dinosaur fossils by "refuting" carbon dating.
This is meaningless - paleontologists do not use carbon dating to assess dinosaur fossils; dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago, more than a thousand times farther back than carbon dating can be used.
In a classic example of irony, carbon dating was used to verify the ages of the Dead Sea Scrolls to around 2000 years ago, during the period of the Atmosphere of the Moon • Bird evolution • Creationism and social history • Dendrochronology • Evidence against a recent creation • Evolution • Fossil • Fossil fuel • Fossil record • Geologic timeline • Geology • Geomagnetism • Grand Canyon • History of the Earth • K-Pg extinction event • Lake Agassiz • List of transitional forms • Mitochondrial Eve • Paleontology • Petrified forest • Plate tectonics • Punctuated equilibrium • Radiometric dating • Recent African Origin hypothesis • Rotation of the Earth • Starlight problem • Transitional fossil • Y-chromosomal Adam • 101 evidences for a young age of the Earth and the universe • Atmosphere of the Moon • Baraminology • Biblical literalism • Borel's Law • Bumblebee argument • C-decay • Catastrophic plate tectonics • Creationist mathematics • De-evolution • Do you want to be descended from a monkey?
All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements, each with its own atomic number, indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.
Together with stratigraphic principles, radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geologic time scale.
Among the best-known techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium–argon dating and uranium–lead dating.
Beyond that timespan, the amount of the original C formed by irradiation of nitrogen by neutrons from the spontaneous fission of uranium, present in trace quantities almost everywhere.
For older samples, other dating methods must be used.