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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).
For organic materials, the comparison is between the current ratio of a radioactive isotope to a stable isotope of the same element and the known ratio of the two isotopes in living organisms.
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A radioactive isotope is a chemical element that has an unstable nucleus subject to decay.
Radioactive isotopes are used in medicine, such as in chemical stress tests, and one radioactive isotope, carbon-14, is used to date fossils.
Part 1 (in the previous issue) explained how scientists observe unstable atoms changing into stable atoms in the present.
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Radioactive rocks offer a similar “clock.” Radioactive atoms, such as uranium (the parent isotopes), decay into stable atoms, such as lead (the daughter isotopes), at a measurable rate.
To date a radioactive rock, geologists first measure the “sand grains” in the top glass bowl (the parent radioisotope, such as uranium-238 or potassium-40).
For inorganic matter and for older materials, isotopes of other elements, such as potassium, uranium, and strontium, are used.
Mikhail Marov of the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry said scientists had determined the meteorite's age by observing the amount of radioactive isotopes and their decay byproducts, a technique called of a granodiorite at the Cuttaburra A prospect indicates that this mineralised system may be Middle Silurian in age and thus indicating that the host rocks are older than those hosting the Cobar-type deposits.