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The age of the planet, though, was important to Charles Darwin and other evolutionary theorists: The biological evidence they were collecting showed that nature needed vastly more time than previously thought to sculpt the world.A breakthrough came with the discovery of radioactivity at the beginning of the 1900s.Measuring the uranium-to-lead ratios in the oldest rocks on Earth gave scientists an estimated age of the planet of 4.6 billion years.Segment from A Science Odyssey: "Origins."Geologists have calculated the age of Earth at 4.6 billion years.Radiometric Dating - A Brief Explanation Radiometric dating is the primary dating scheme employed by scientists to determine the age of the earth.Radiometric dating techniques take advantage of the natural decay of radioisotopes.
Many chemical elements in rock exist in a number of slightly different forms, known as isotopes.An isotope is one of two or more atoms which have the same number of protons in their nuclei, but a different number of neutrons.Radioisotopes are unstable isotopes: they spontaneously decay (emitting radiation in the process -- thus making them radioactive).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.
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In other words, in only a few thousand years, 1.5 billion years' worth (at today's rates) of radioactive decay has taken place.