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This predictability allows the relative abundances of related nuclides to be used as a clock to measure the time from the incorporation of the original nuclides into a material to the present.
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.
Precision is enhanced if measurements are taken on multiple samples from different locations of the rock body.
Alternatively, if several different minerals can be dated from the same sample and are assumed to be formed by the same event and were in equilibrium with the reservoir when they formed, they should form an isochron. In uranium–lead dating, the concordia diagram is used which also decreases the problem of nuclide loss.
Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.
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).Finally, correlation between different isotopic dating methods may be required to confirm the age of a sample.For example, the age of the Amitsoq gneisses from western Greenland was determined to be Accurate radiometric dating generally requires that the parent has a long enough half-life that it will be present in significant amounts at the time of measurement (except as described below under "Dating with short-lived extinct radionuclides"), the half-life of the parent is accurately known, and enough of the daughter product is produced to be accurately measured and distinguished from the initial amount of the daughter present in the material.Among the best-known techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium–argon dating and uranium–lead dating.By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.
Another possibility is spontaneous fission into two or more nuclides.