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21-Dec-2018 04:50

Dating a rock involves uranium-lead measurements on many zircons, then assessing the quality of the data.

Some zircons are obviously disturbed and can be ignored, while other cases are harder to judge.

If you took rocks of all ages and plotted their two Pb/U ratios from their two isotope pairs against each other on a graph, the points would form a beautiful line called a concordia (see the example in the right column). First, its chemical structure likes uranium and hates lead.

Uranium easily substitutes for zirconium while lead is strongly excluded.

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Calcite precipitated from running or dripping water in springs and caves, as well as marls and soil-deposited calcretes may be spatio-temporally associated with archaeological materials; they can be dated by U measurements with a precision of ±5–10% of the age (by alpha counting) or ±1% (by mass spectrometry).

The straight line takes the zircons off the concordia. The disturbing event affects the zircons unequally, stripping all the lead from some, only part of it from others and leaving some untouched.

The results from these zircons therefore plot along that straight line, establishing what is called a discordia. If a 1500-million-year-old rock is disturbed to create a discordia, then is undisturbed for another billion years, the whole discordia line will migrate along the curve of the concordia, always pointing to the age of the disturbance.

Uranium dating is one of the ways of determining the age of ancient objects, even one million years old, by measuring how much of the following are present in them: the amount of radioactive isotopes of uranium, and the amount of other materials into which the radioactive isotopes would decompose.

These measurements, when combined with knowledge about the initial state of matter under study (that is, composition at the time of death of an organism, or formation of a mineral) and the rate at which radioactivity takes place, would yield the age of the object.This means the clock is truly set at zero when zircon forms.Second, zircon has a high trapping temperature of 900°C.If nothing disturbs the grain to release any of this radiogenic lead, dating it is straightforward in concept.