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By the early 1960s, most of the major radiometric dating techniques now in use had been tested and their general limitations were known.No technique, of course, is ever completely perfected and refinement continues to this day, but for more than two decades radiometric dating methods have been used to measure reliably the ages of rocks, the Earth, meteorites, and, since 1969, the Moon.Second, the rock or mineral must not lose or gain either potassium or argon from the time of its formation to the time of analysis.By many experiments over the past three decades, geologists have learned which types of rocks and minerals meet these requirements and which do not.The main point is that the ages of rock formations are rarely based on a single, isolated age measurement.On the contrary, radiometric ages are verified whenever possible and practical, and are evaluated by considering other relevant data.

Instead, I describe briefly only the three principal methods. These are the three methods most commonly used by scientists to determine the ages of rocks because they have the broadest range of applicability and are highly reliable when properly used.The point is that not all methods are applicable to all rocks of all ages.One of the primary functions of the dating specialist (sometimes called a geochronologist) is to select the applicable method for the particular problem to be solved, and to design the experiment in such a way that there will be checks on the reliability of the results.For example, a method based on a parent isotope with a very long half-life, such as C method can only be used to determine the ages of certain types of young organic material and is useless on old granites.Some methods work only on closed systems, whereas others work on open systems.

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