But for humans whose life span rarely reaches more than 100 years, how can we be so sure of that ancient date? Even the Greeks and Romans realized that layers of sediment in rock signified old age.
But it wasn't until the late 1700s -- when Scottish geologist James Hutton, who observed sediments building up on the landscape, set out to show that rocks were time clocks -- that serious scientific interest in geological age began.
So, we have a “clock” which starts ticking the moment something dies.
Obviously, this works only for things which were once living.
Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.
One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or C ratio gets smaller.
Carbon has unique properties that are essential for life on Earth.The New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford, suggested in 1905 that the exact age of a rock could be measured by means of radioactivity.For the first time he was able to exactly measure the age of a uranium mineral.Geologist Ralph Harvey and historian Mott Greene explain the principles of radiometric dating and its application in determining the age of Earth.As the uranium in rocks decays, it emits subatomic particles and turns into lead at a constant rate.