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With made explicit and half-life introduced, equation 4 is converted to the following form, in which the symbols have the same meaning: Alternatively, because the number of daughter atoms is directly observed rather than to designate the parent atom, the expression assumes its familiar form: and This pair of equations states rigorously what might be assumed from intuition, that minerals formed at successively longer times in the past would have progressively higher daughter-to-parent ratios.

This follows because, as each parent atom loses its identity with time, it reappears as a daughter atom. In short, one need only measure the ratio of the number of radioactive parent and daughter atoms present, and the time elapsed since the mineral or rock formed can be calculated, provided of course that the decay rate is known. The measurement of the daughter-to-parent ratio must be accurate because uncertainty in this ratio contributes directly to uncertainty in the age.

In fact, one would expect that the ratio of oranges to apples would change in a very specific way over the time elapsed, since the process continues until all the apples are converted. A particular rock or mineral that contains a radioactive isotope (or radio-isotope) is analyzed to determine the number of parent and daughter isotopes present, whereby the time since that mineral or rock formed is calculated.

Of course, one must select geologic materials that contain elements with long half-lives— those for which some parent atoms would remain.

isotope is converted into another specific atom or isotope at a constant and known rate.

Most elements exist in different atomic forms that are identical in their chemical properties but differ in the number of neutral particles— neutrons—in the nucleus.

Proportion 1 becomes: Stated in words, this equation says that the rate at which a certain radioisotope disintegrates depends not only on how many atoms of that isotope are present but also on an intrinsic property of that isotope represented by λ, the so-called decay constant.

In the first place, since the unknown term in radiometric dating is obviously ) rather than through the decay constant λ.

The results are then tested for the internal consistency that can validate the assumptions.

In all cases, it is the obligation of the investigator making the determinations to include enough tests to indicate that the absolute age quoted is valid within the limits stated.

In this analogy, the apples would represent radioactive, or parent, atoms, while the oranges would represent the atoms formed, the so-called daughters.

Pursuing this analogy further, one would expect that a new basket of apples would have no oranges but that an older one would have many.

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For a single element, these atoms are called isotopes.

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