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Geochronology is the science of determining the age of rocks, fossils, and sediments using signatures inherent in the rocks themselves.Absolute geochronology can be accomplished through radioactive isotopes, whereas relative geochronology is provided by tools such as palaeomagnetism and stable isotope ratios.By combining multiple geochronological (and biostratigraphic) indicators the precision of the recovered age can be improved.Geochronology is different in application from biostratigraphy, which is the science of assigning sedimentary rocks to a known geological period via describing, cataloguing and comparing fossil floral and faunal assemblages.

It is based on a comparison between the observed abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope and its decay products, using known decay rates.This chain eventually ends with the formation of a stable, nonradioactive daughter nuclide.Each step in such a chain is characterized by a distinct half-life.For example, in the The decay constant has dimensions of reciprocal seconds.In the special case in which parent and daughter atoms are present in equal quantities, the age of the specimen is the half-life of the parent isotope: The first assumption, that the amount of the daughter isotope in the original rock is known, is the weakest assumption.

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Radiometric dating utilizes the decay rates of certain radioactive atoms to date rocks or artifacts.

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