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Note that the conditions we have given for the hourglass are ideal conditions which we would require to know exactly how long it is since the hourglass started running.
If conditions are less than ideal, we may still be in a position to come up with an approximate figure which is better than nothing.
To do so successfully, we would need to assure ourselves of the following conditions: Given these conditions, we can find out how long the hourglass has been running.
If we wish to use a geological process as the geological equivalent of an hourglass, we would want to have similar conditions: we would like to find some quantity which we can measure reliably (corresponding to the condition that we can measure the amount of sand in the lower bulb of the hourglass); which increases or decreases from a known quantity (corresponding to the lower bulb of the hourglass being empty when it starts running) at a known rate (corresponding to knowing the rate of flow of sand); and so forth.
Here is an example: All you then need is one formation somewhere with a particular suite of fossils and a convenient igneous layer to give you an absolute date.
Then any other sedimentary rock with the same fossils is going to be the same basic age. The most problematic are sedimentary rocks that have been metamorphosed.
Relative dating is an older method of placing events on the calendar of time.
For educational purposes, we shall start with a method which barely works at all under any circumstances.
Absolute dating is a method of determining the specific date of a paleontological or archaeological artifact or location based on a specific time scale or calendar.
From the Dynamic Earth at the University of Leeds, a cross-linked series of static diagrams illustrates the underlying principle of radioactive decay, the concept of a decay constant, and isochron plots.
In this article I shall define absolute dating, and shall discuss the conditions that we would require to use a geological process as the basis for absolute dating.