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The atoms of some chemical elements have different forms, called isotopes.These break down over time in a process scientists call radioactive decay.Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find.They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.

After all, most of the major problems and issues faced by our society aren't geological in nature or are they?When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.Isotopes are important to geologists because each radioactive element decays at a constant rate, which is unique to that element.These rates of decay are known, so if you can measure the proportion of parent and daughter isotopes in rocks now, you can calculate when the rocks were formed.Because of their unique decay rates, different elements are used for dating different age ranges.

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