A Geologic Time Scale Relative dating is the process of determining if one rock or geologic event is older or younger than another, without knowing their specific ages—i.e., how many years ago the . Start studying 5 Geologic Principles/ Relative Dating. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools.
January Fossils provide a record of the history of life. Smith is known relevannt the Father of English Geology. Oxford Library. Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods. Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that trans escort poissy fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations relevant dating in geology geologgy. Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating.
Stratigraphy, the study of rock layers, led to paleontology, the study of fossils. Then, geologists began to build up the stratigraphic column, the familiar listing of divisions of geological time — Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and so on.
Each time unit was characterized by particular fossils. The scheme worked all round the world, without fail. From the s onwards, geologists noted how fossils became more complex through time. The oldest rocks contained no fossils, then came simple sea creatures, then more complex ones like fishes, then came life on land, then reptiles, then mammals, and finally humans.
Accuracy of the fossils Fossils prove that humans did not exist alongside dinosaurs. Since , paleontologists, or fossil experts, have searched the world for fossils.
In the past years they have not found any fossils that Darwin would not have expected. Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined the improvements in resolution of stratigraphy that have come since , nor guessed what fossils were to be found in the southern continents, nor predicted the huge increase in the number of amateur and professional paleontologists worldwide.
All these labors have not led to a single unexpected finding such as a human fossil from the time of the dinosaurs, or a Jurassic dinosaur in the same rocks as Silurian trilobites. Scientists now use phylogeny, mathematics, and other computations to date fossils. Paleontologists now apply sophisticated mathematical techniques to assess the relative quality of particular fossil successions, as well as the entire fossil record.
These demonstrate that, of course, we do not know everything and clearly never will , but we know enough. Today, innovative techniques provide further confirmation and understanding of the history of life. Biologists actually have at their disposal several independent ways of looking at the history of life - not only from the order of fossils in the rocks, but also through phylogenetic trees. Phylogenetic trees are the family trees of particular groups of plants or animals, showing how all the species relate to each other.
Phylogenetic trees are drawn up mathematically, using lists of morphological external form or molecular gene sequence characters. Modern phylogenetic trees have no input from stratigraphy, so they can be used in a broad way to make comparisons between tree shape and stratigraphy. The majority of test cases show good agreement, so the fossil record tells the same story as the molecules enclosed in living organisms. Accuracy of dating Dating in geology may be relative or absolute.
Relative dating is done by observing fossils, as described above, and recording which fossil is younger, which is older.
The discovery of means for absolute dating in the early s was a huge advance. The methods are all based on radioactive decay: Fossils may be dated by calculating the rate of decay of certain elements. Certain naturally occurring elements are radioactive, and they decay, or break down, at predictable rates. Chemists measure the half-life of such elements, i. Sometimes, one isotope, or naturally occurring form, of an element decays into another, more stable form of the same element.
By comparing the proportions of parent to daughter element in a rock sample, and knowing the half-life, the age can be calculated. Older fossils cannot be dated by carbon methods and require radiometric dating.
Scientists can use different chemicals for absolute dating: The best-known absolute dating technique is carbon dating, which archaeologists prefer to use. However, the half-life of carbon is only years, so the method cannot be used for materials older than about 70, years. Subtle differences in the relative proportions of the two isotopes can give good dates for rocks of any age. Scientists can check their accuracy by using different isotopes.
The first radiometric dates, generated about , showed that the Earth was hundreds of millions, or billions, of years old.
Since then, geologists have made many tens of thousands of radiometric age determinations, and they have refined the earlier estimates. Age estimates can be cross-tested by using different isotope pairs. Results from different techniques, often measured in rival labs, continually confirm each other.
Every few years, new geologic time scales are published, providing the latest dates for major time lines. Many elements have some isotopes that are unstable, essentially because they have too many neutrons to be balanced by the number of protons in the nucleus. Each of these unstable isotopes has its own characteristic half life. Some half lives are several billion years long, and others are as short as a ten-thousandth of a second.
On a piece of notebook paper, each piece should be placed with the printed M facing down. This represents the parent isotope. The candy should be poured into a container large enough for them to bounce around freely, it should be shaken thoroughly, then poured back onto the paper so that it is spread out instead of making a pile. This first time of shaking represents one half life, and all those pieces of candy that have the printed M facing up represent a change to the daughter isotope.
Then, count the number of pieces of candy left with the M facing down. These are the parent isotope that did not change during the first half life. The teacher should have each team report how many pieces of parent isotope remain, and the first row of the decay table Figure 2 should be filled in and the average number calculated.
The same procedure of shaking, counting the "survivors", and filling in the next row on the decay table should be done seven or eight more times. Each time represents a half life. Each team should plot on a graph Figure 3 the number of pieces of candy remaining after each of their "shakes" and connect each successive point on the graph with a light line.
AND, on the same graph, each group should plot points where, after each "shake" the starting number is divided by exactly two and connect these points by a differently colored line. After the graphs are plotted, the teacher should guide the class into thinking about: Is it the single group's results, or is it the line based on the class average? U is found in most igneous rocks. Unless the rock is heated to a very high temperature, both the U and its daughter Pb remain in the rock.
A geologist can compare the proportion of U atoms to Pb produced from it and determine the age of the rock.
The next part of this exercise shows how this is done. Each team is given a piece of paper marked TIME, on which is written either 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 minutes. The team should place each marked piece so that "U" is showing. This represents Uranium, which emits a series of particles from the nucleus as it decays to Lead Pb- When each team is ready with the pieces all showing "U", a timed two-minute interval should start.
During that time each team turns over half of the U pieces so that they now show Pb This represents one "half-life" of U, which is the time for half the nuclei to change from the parent U to the daughter Pb A new two-minute interval begins. Continue through a total of 4 to 5 timed intervals. That is, each team should stop according to their TIME paper at the end of the first timed interval 2 minutes , or at the end of the second timed interval 4 minutes , and so on.
After all the timed intervals have occurred, teams should exchange places with one another as instructed by the teacher. The task now for each team is to determine how many timed intervals that is, how many half-lives the set of pieces they are looking at has experienced.
The half life of U is million years. Both the team that turned over a set of pieces and the second team that examined the set should determine how many million years are represented by the proportion of U and Pb present, compare notes, and haggle about any differences that they got. Right, each team must determine the number of millions of years represented by the set that they themselves turned over, PLUS the number of millions of years represented by the set that another team turned over.
PART 3: Pb atoms in the pegmatite is 1: Using the same reasoning about proportions as in Part 2b above, students can determine how old the pegmatite and the granite are. They should write the ages of the pegmatite and granite beside the names of the rocks in the list below the block diagram Figure 1.
This makes the curve more useful, because it is easier to plot it more accurately. That is especially helpful for ratios of parent isotope to daughter isotope that represent less than one half life. For the block diagram Figure 1 , if a geochemical laboratory determines that the volcanic ash that is in the siltstone has a ratio of U Pb of