What is uranium dating

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Of all the isotopic dating methods in use today, the uranium-lead method is the oldest and, when done carefully, the most reliable.

Unlike any other method, uranium-lead has a natural cross-check built into it that shows when nature has tampered with the evidence.

However, use of a single decay scheme (usually Pb) leads to the U–Pb isochron dating method, analogous to the rubidium–strontium dating method.

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The 235U–207Pb cascade has a half-life of 704 million years and the 238U–206Pb cascade is considerably slower, with a half-life of 4.47 billion years.

So when a mineral grain forms (specifically, when it first cools below its trapping temperature), it effectively sets the uranium-lead "clock" to zero.

Uranium comes in two common isotopes with atomic weights of 235 and 238 (we'll call them 235U and 238U).

Both are unstable and radioactive, shedding nuclear particles in a cascade that doesn't stop until they become lead (Pb).

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