What is relative age dating


14-Aug-2020 04:37

Major boundaries in Earth's time scale happen when there were major extinction events that wiped certain kinds of fossils out of the fossil record.

This is called the chronostratigraphic time scale -- that is, the division of time (the "chrono-" part) according to the relative position in the rock record (that's "stratigraphy").

We have no idea how much older thing B is, we just know that it's older.

That's why geologic time is usually diagramed in tall columnar diagrams like this.

In the science of geology, there are two main ways we use to describe how old a thing is or how long ago an event took place. When you say that I am 38 years old or that the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, or that the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago, those are absolute ages.

There are absolute ages and there are relative ages. We use a variety of laboratory techniques to figure out absolute ages of rocks, often having to do with the known rates of decay of radioactive elements into detectable daughter products.

Unfortunately, those methods don't work on all rocks, and they don't work at all if you don't have rocks in the laboratory to age-date. They are descriptions of how one rock or event is older or younger than another.

There's no absolute age-dating method that works from orbit, and although scientists are working on age-dating instruments small enough to fly on a lander (I'm looking at you, Barbara Cohen), nothing has launched yet. Relative age dating has given us the names we use for the major and minor geologic time periods we use to split up the history of Earth and all the other planets.

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When you find the same fossils in rocks far away, you know that the sediments those rocks must have been laid down at the same time.

That last, pink Precambrian column, with its sparse list of epochal names, covers the first four billion years of Earth's history, more than three quarters of Earth's existence. Paleontologists have used major appearances and disappearances of different kinds of fossils on Earth to divide Earth's history -- at least the part of it for which there are lots of fossils -- into lots of eras and periods and epochs.

When you talk about something happening in the Precambrian or the Cenozoic or the Silurian or Eocene, you are talking about something that happened when a certain kind of fossil life was present.

The science of paleontology, and its use for relative age dating, was well-established before the science of isotopic age-dating was developed.

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Nowadays, age-dating of rocks has established pretty precise numbers for the absolute ages of the boundaries between fossil assemblages, but there's still uncertainty in those numbers, even for Earth.A few days ago, I wrote a post about the basins of the Moon -- a result of a trip down a rabbit hole of book research.