Teaching the methods of absolute dating

Pretty obvious that the dike came after the rocks it cuts through, right?With absolute age dating, you get a real age in actual years.To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point.Geologists draw on it and other basic principles ( to determine the relative ages of rocks or features such as faults.The narrower a range of time that an animal lived, the better it is as an index of a specific time.

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Relative age dating also means paying attention to crosscutting relationships.Say for example that a volcanic dike, or a fault, cuts across several sedimentary layers, or maybe through another volcanic rock type.Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.Absolute age dating is like saying you are 15 years old and your grandfather is 77 years old.

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It’s based either on fossils which are recognized to represent a particular interval of time, or on radioactive decay of specific isotopes. Based on the Rule of Superposition, certain organisms clearly lived before others, during certain geologic times.

After all, a dinosaur wouldn’t be caught dead next to a trilobite.

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