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Each isotopic system has particular properties that lend itself to be used in different circumstances, e.g.
the uranium-lead system will provide the age a granite was intruded into the crust in billions of years whereas carbon-dating will provide the age of an animal just before it became someones dinner in thousands of years.
For continued discussion of related geochemical analytical data modelling, see here -- Oliver Raymond - 2009-10-28 Geology is a four-dimensional science: When did this volcano last erupt? Are the deformation and mineralising events at gold prospect Alpha the same age as documented at gold mine Beta?
Does the age of this coral fit the known climate record?
Calibration Software Probability Density Function Tree rings and other calibration records Wiggle-Matching: Using fluctuations in calibration curve to obtain precise ages relatively-dated series.Concordia diagram, as used in U-Pb dating, with data from the Pfunze Belt, Zimbabwe. represented by that material) is based on the decay of a radiogenic parent isotope into a daughter isotope (or series of daughter isotopes) occurring at a known, unchangeable rate.There are several parent-daughter isotopic systems that are routinely analysed including: uranium-238/lead-206, uranium-235/lead-207, thorium-238/lead-208, potassium-40/argon-40, rubidium-87/strontium-87, lutetium-176/hafnium-176, etc.
Some methods are little more complex such as argon-argon which involves irradiating a sample prior to analysis or fisson-track which measures the damage done to a crystal lattice when uranium isotopes fission.Because of differences in geochemical behaviour between isotopes and elements some of these systems also provide important geochemical information about processes such as crustal and mantle evolution.