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As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.

A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.

This is unstable and eventually decays to lead, which is stable.

Despite seeming like a relatively stable place, the Earth's surface has changed dramatically over the past 4.6 billion years.

However, by itself a fossil has little meaning unless it is placed within some context.

The object's approximate age can then be figured out using the known rate of decay of the isotope.

In historical geology, the primary methods of absolute dating involve using the radioactive decay of elements trapped in rocks or minerals, including isotope systems from very young (radiocarbon dating with Radiometric dating is based on the known and constant rate of decay of radioactive isotopes into their radiogenic daughter isotopes.

Particular isotopes are suitable for different applications due to the type of atoms present in the mineral or other material and its approximate age.

The most widely known form of radiometric dating is carbon-14 dating.

This is what archaeologists use to determine the age of human-made artifacts. The half-life of carbon-14 is only 5,730 years, so carbon-14 dating is only effective on samples that are less than 50,000 years old.

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For example, techniques based on isotopes with half lives in the thousands of years, such as Carbon-14, cannot be used to date materials that have ages on the order of billions of years, as the detectable amounts of the radioactive atoms and their decayed daughter isotopes will be too small to measure within the uncertainty of the instruments.

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