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This normally involves isotope-ratio mass spectrometry. The precision of a dating method depends in part on the half-life of the radioactive isotope involved.
For instance, carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years.
All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements, each with its own atomic number, indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.The basic equation of radiometric dating requires that neither the parent nuclide nor the daughter product can enter or leave the material after its formation.The possible confounding effects of contamination of parent and daughter isotopes have to be considered, as do the effects of any loss or gain of such isotopes since the sample was created.This transformation may be accomplished in a number of different ways, including alpha decay (emission of alpha particles) and beta decay (electron emission, positron emission, or electron capture).Another possibility is spontaneous fission into two or more nuclides.
It is therefore essential to have as much information as possible about the material being dated and to check for possible signs of alteration.