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Isotopic systems that have been exploited for radiometric dating have half-lives ranging from only about 10 years (e.g., tritium) to over 100 billion years (e.g., samarium-147).For most radioactive nuclides, the half-life depends solely on nuclear properties and is essentially a constant.By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.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.
In these cases, usually the half-life of interest in radiometric dating is the longest one in the chain, which is the rate-limiting factor in the ultimate transformation of the radioactive nuclide into its stable daughter.For purposes of relative dating this principle is used to identify faults and erosional features within the rock record.Then, by applying the Principle of Cross-Cutting we are able to relatively date those processes.The Principle of Original Horizontality states that due to the influence of gravity all sediment is originally deposited horizontally.In other words, as sediment fills a depositional basins we would expect the upper most surface of the sediment to be parallel to the horizon. Using this principle we can than assume that sedimentary layers which have been deformed/folded must have been deformed after all affected layers have been deposited.
Relative dating utilizes six fundamental principles to determine the relative age of a formation or event.