Radioactive dating activity high school

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Thomson's calculations, however, were soon shown to be flawed when radioactivity was discovered in 1896.Radioactivity is the tendency of certain atoms to decay into lighter atoms, emitting energy in the process.For example, geologists measured how fast streams deposited sediment, in order to try to calculate how long the stream had been in existence.Not surprisingly, these methods resulted in wildly different estimates, from a few million years to "quadrillions of years".Another example of yearly layers is the deposition of sediments in lakes, especially the lakes that are located at the end of glaciers.Rapid melting of the glacier in the summer results in a thick, sandy deposit of sediment.

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The width of a series of growth rings can give clues to past climates and various disruptions such as forest fires.Probably the most reliable of these estimates was produced by the British geologist Charles Lyell, who estimated that 240 million years have passed since the appearance of the first animals with shells.Today scientists know his estimate was too young; we know that this occurred about 530 million years ago.While tree rings and other annual layers are useful for dating relatively recent events, they are not of much use on the vast scale of geologic time.During the 18th and 19th centuries, geologists tried to estimate the age of Earth with indirect techniques.

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