Any scientific study of the past, including the geologic past, relies on the use of dating methods to determine the age of sites, landforms, sediments or geologic events.
A variety of dating methods are available, and the scientist must decide which method will provide the most accurate results in each case.
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Radioactive carbon (Carbon 14) is formed in the upper atmosphere as a byproduct of cosmic radiation.
Cosmic rays are positively charged atoms moving at enormous speeds.
Radioactive potassium (40potassium) decays into argon over time, so the age of certain rocks or minerals can be discovered by measuring the amount of argon they contain.
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As a result, there is a changing ratio of carbon-14 to the more atomically stable carbon-12 involves actually counting individual carbon-14 atoms.
This allows the dating of much older and smaller samples but at a far higher cost.