### Geologic Age Dating Explained - Kids Discover

Using relative and radiometric dating methods, geologists are able to answer the Individual rock layers, or strata, can be seen exposed in the wall of the. Relative Dating is when you give the age of a rock or fossil compared to another Law of Superposition: When sedimentary rock layers are deposited, younger. Look at the diagram below representing layers of rocks and the fossils buried in them. What is the difference between relative and absolute age? ash using radiometric dating, but how can we determine the absolute age of fossil A?.

Relative dating is used to determine a fossils approximate age by comparing it to similar rocks and fossils of known ages.

### DETERMINING AGE OF ROCKS AND FOSSILS

Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a fossil by using radiometric dating to measure the decay of isotopes, either within the fossil or more often the rocks associated with it.

Relative Dating The majority of the time fossils are dated using relative dating techniques. Using relative dating the fossil is compared to something for which an age is already known. For example if you have a fossil trilobite and it was found in the Wheeler Formation.

The Wheeler Formation has been previously dated to approximately million year old, so we know the trilobite is also about million years old. Scientists can use certain types of fossils referred to as index fossils to assist in relative dating via correlation. Index fossils are fossils that are known to only occur within a very specific age range.

Typically commonly occurring fossils that had a widespread geographic distribution such as brachiopods, trilobites, and ammonites work best as index fossils. If the fossil you are trying to date occurs alongside one of these index fossils, then the fossil you are dating must fall into the age range of the index fossil.

Sometimes multiple index fossils can be used. In a hypothetical example, a rock formation contains fossils of a type of brachiopod known to occur between and million years.

The same rock formation also contains a type of trilobite that was known to live to million years ago.

Since the rock formation contains both types of fossils the ago of the rock formation must be in the overlapping date range of to million years.

Studying the layers of rock or strata can also be useful. Layers of rock are deposited sequentially.

- PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES
- Absolute Dating
- MATERIALS REQUIRED FOR EACH GROUP

If a layer of rock containing the fossil is higher up in the sequence that another layer, you know that layer must be younger in age. Each time represents a half life.

## Geologic Age Dating Explained

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.

**Relative/Absolute Dating**

That is, each team should stop according to their TIME paper at the end of the first timed interval 2 minutesor at the end of the second timed interval 4 minutesand 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.

## Dating Fossils – How Are Fossils Dated?

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. 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 1if a geochemical laboratory determines that the volcanic ash that is in the siltstone has a ratio of U If the ratio in the basalt is 7: Students should write the age of the volcanic ash beside the shale, siltstone and basalt on the list below the block diagram.

Why can't you say exactly what the age of the rock is? Why can you be more precise about the age of this rock than you could about the ages of the rock that has the trilobites and the rock that contains acritarchs and bacteria? Based on cross-cutting relationships, it was established that the pegmatite is younger than the slate and that the slate is younger than the granite. Therefore, the slate that contains the acritarch and bacteria is between million years and million years old, because the pegmatite is million years old and the granite is million years old.

The slate itself cannot be radiometrically dated, so can only be bracketed between the ages of the granite and the pegmatite. The trilobite-bearing limestone overlies the quartz sandstone, which cross-cuts the pegmatite, and the basalt cuts through the limestone. Therefore the trilobites and the rock that contains them must be younger than million years the age of the pegmatite and older than million years the age of the basalt.

The limestone itself cannot be radiometrically dated, so can only be bracketed between the ages of the granite and the pegmatite.