They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time Most absolute dates for rocks are obtained with radiometric methods.Isotopes are important to geologists because each radioactive element decays at a constant rate, which is unique to that element.
The best-known radiometric dating techniques include radiocarbon dating, potassium-argon dating, and uranium-lead dating.
Each isotope is identified with what is called a ‘mass number’.
When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. 1979, 1986 © Harper Collins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 Cite This Source (rā'dē-ō-mět'rĭk) A method for determining the age of an object based on the concentration of a particular radioactive isotope contained within it.
For inorganic materials, such as rocks containing the radioactive isotope rubidium, the amount of the isotope in the object is compared to the amount of the isotope's decay products (in this case strontium).