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However, potassium is very mobile during metamorphism and alteration, and so this technique is not used much for old rocks, but is useful for rocks of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, particularly unaltered igneous rocks.

Argon-Argon dating (39Ar-40Ar) This technique developed in the late 1960s but came into vogue in the early 1980s, through step-wise release of the isotopes.

This technique uses the same minerals and rocks as for K-Ar dating but restricts measurements to the argon isotopic system which is not so affected by metamorphic and alteration events. The decay of 147Sm to 143Nd for dating rocks began in the mid-1970s and was widespread by the early 1980s.

It is useful for dating very old igneous and metamorphic rocks and also meteorites and other cosmic fragments.

Another way of expressing this is the half-life period (given the symbol T).

The half-life is the time it takes for half of the parent atoms to decay.

The amount of 14C present and the known rate of decay of 14C and the equilibrium value gives the length of time elapsed since the death of the organism.

This method faces problems because the cosmic ray flux has changed over time, but a calibration factor is applied to take this into account.

This system is highly favoured for accurate dating of igneous and metamorphic rocks, through many different techniques.

However, there is a limited range in Sm-Nd isotopes in many igneous rocks, although metamorphic rocks that contain the mineral garnet are useful as this mineral has a large range in Sm-Nd isotopes.

This technique also helps in determining the composition and evolution of the Earth's mantle and bodies in the universe.

The relationship between the two is: T = 0.693 / λ Many different radioactive isotopes and techniques are used for dating.

All rely on the fact that certain elements (particularly uranium and potassium) contain a number of different isotopes whose half-life is exactly known and therefore the relative concentrations of these isotopes within a rock or mineral can measure the age.

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