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Absolute age dating

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In addition, they have had to develop special techniques with which to dissolve these highly refractory minerals without contaminating the small amount (about one-billionth of a gram) of contained lead and uranium on which the age must be calculated.

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In fact, even in younger rocks, absolute dating is the only way that the fossil record can be calibrated.Continents move, carried on huge slabs, or plates, of dense rock about 100 km (62 miles) thick over a low-friction, partially melted zone (the asthenosphere) below.In the oceans, new seafloor, created at the globe-circling oceanic ridges, moves away, cools, and sinks back into the mantle in what are known as subduction zones (i.e., long, narrow belts at which one plate descends beneath another).When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.When these regions are later exposed in uptilted portions of ancient continents, a history of terrestrial rock-forming events can be deduced.This then can be used to deduce the sequence of events and processes that took place or the history of that brief period of time as recorded in the rocks or soil.

For example, the presence of recycled bricks at an archaeological site indicates the sequence in which the structures were built.

It is only by correlations that the conditions on different parts of Earth at any particular stage in its history can be deduced.

In addition, because sediment deposition is not continuous and much rock material has been removed by erosion, the fossil record from many localities has to be integrated before a complete picture of the evolution of life on Earth can be assembled.

Similarly, in geologic studies, vast quantities of information from widely spaced outcrops have to be integrated.

Some method of correlating rock units must be found.

The same margin of error applies for younger fossiliferous rocks, making absolute dating comparable in precision to that attained using fossils.