The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.
The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.
In fact, this form of dating has been used to date the age of rocks brought back to Earth from the moon.
So, we see there are a number of different methods for dating rocks and other non-living things, but what if our sample is organic in nature?
These differing rates of decay help make uranium-lead dating one of the most reliable methods of radiometric dating because they provide two different decay clocks.
Learn about half-life and how it is used in different dating methods, such as uranium-lead dating and radiocarbon dating, in this video lesson. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows.As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 79,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.These two uranium isotopes decay at different rates. The half-life of the uranium-238 to lead-206 is 4.47 billion years.The uranium-235 to lead-207 decay series is marked by a half-life of 704 million years.