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Because of the alternation between dark and light sediments we can use each dark band as a marker for one year.

For really old dates we need to use radioactive isotopes.

Each original isotope, called the parent, gradually decays to form a new isotope, called the daughter.

Each isotope is identified with what is called a ‘mass number’.

Precise isotopic ages are called absolute ages, since they date the timing of events not relative to each other but as the time elapsed between a rock-forming event and the present.

Absolute dating by means of uranium and lead isotopes has...

This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time Most absolute dates for rocks are obtained with radiometric methods.

Still, it has happened in the past that scientists have thought they'd got hold of a law of nature and then found out it was false.

When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.

Isotopes are important to geologists because each radioactive element decays at a constant rate, which is unique to that element.

Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find.

They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.