Scientists are able to study recent climactic events by measuring the amount of a specific radioactive nuclide that is known to have attached itself to certain particles that have been incorporated into the earth's surface.
What is radioactive dating used to determine
Since the discovery of radioactive dating, there have been several improvements in the equipment used to measure radioactive residuals in samples.
What is radioactive dating used to find
The discovery of the radioactive properties of uranium in 1896 by henri becquerel subsequently revolutionized the way scientists measured the age of artifacts and supported the theory that the earth was considerably older than what some scientists believed.
So to date those, geologists look for layers like volcanic ash that might be sandwiched between the sedimentary layers, and that tend to have radioactive elements.
If we were to measure the ratio of 14c to 12c today, we would find a value of about one 14c atom for each one-trillion 12c atoms.
A potassium-argon method of dating, developed in 1966, measures the amount of 40ar arising from the 40k decay and is compared to the amount of 40k remaining in the rock.
All radioactive dating is based on the fact that a radioactive substance, through its characteristic disintegration, eventually transmutes into a stable nuclide.