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By 1907 study of the decay products of uranium (lead and intermediate radioactive elements that decay to lead) demonstrated to B. Boltwood that the lead/uranium ratio in uranium minerals increased with geologic age and might provide a geological dating tool.

As radioactive Parent atoms decay to stable daughter atoms (as uranium decays to lead) each disintegration results in one more atom of the daughter than was initially present and one less atom of the parent.

Experts can compare the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in dead material to the ratio when the organism was alive to estimate the date of its death.

Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods.

Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.

The probability of a parent atom decaying in a fixed period of time is always the same for all atoms of that type regardless of temperature, pressure, or chemical conditions. The time required for one-half of any original number of parent atoms to decay is the half-life, which is related to the decay constant by a simple mathematical formula.

All rocks and minerals contain long-lived radioactive elements that were incorporated into Earth when the Solar System formed.

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