Start Earth science lab relative dating 2

Earth science lab relative dating 2

When you talk about the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic on Earth, or the Noachian, Hesperian, and Amazonian for Mars, these are all relative ages.

In the science of geology, there are two main ways we use to describe how old a thing is or how long ago an event took place. When you say that I am 38 years old or that the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, or that the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago, those are absolute ages.

There are absolute ages and there are relative ages. We use a variety of laboratory techniques to figure out absolute ages of rocks, often having to do with the known rates of decay of radioactive elements into detectable daughter products.

We have no idea how much older thing B is, we just know that it's older.

Long before I understood what any of it meant, I'd daydream in science class, staring at this chart, sounding out the names, wondering what those black-and-white bars meant, wondering what the colors meant, wondering why the divisions were so uneven, knowing it represented some kind of deep, meaningful, systematic organization of scientific knowledge, and hoping I'd have it all figured out one day.

Just like a stack of sedimentary rocks, time is recorded in horizontal layers, with the oldest layer on the bottom, superposed by ever-younger layers, until you get to the most recent stuff on the tippy top.

This all has to do with describing how long ago something happened. There are several ways we figure out relative ages.

The simplest is the law of superposition: if thing A is deposited on top of (or cuts across, or obliterates) thing B, then thing B must have been there already when thing A happened, so thing B is older than thing A.