Dating Everyday Objects?

Radiometric dating is generally used for items in our solar system that exponentially older than humans. The composition of an object is evaluated for its ratio of parent and daughter isotopes. This ratio will provide a good estimate of an object’s age if we know the corresponding half-life. But can we use this same process to figure out the ages of items on a much smaller scale? Do isotopes exist, that are found naturally, that would be able to determine the ages of items that could otherwise be calculated through observation across our lifetime?

This image shows a visual representation of what the half-life of an element means and looks like across the parent isotope’s lifetime.

After browsing through several sources, it seemed that this Wikipedia page had the most plentiful information about a variety of isotopes. While many of the synthetic elements (95-118) have half-lives within my timescale of interest, they do not occur naturally, so I did not heavily investigate them. After spending some time with an abundance of tabs open on my browser comparing a handful of isotopes from familiar elements, I came to a few conclusions. There aren’t a whole lot of natural isotopes that would be useful for short-term radiometric dating. In general, there are very few isotopes that have half-lives that are 0-100 years. Furthermore, most of these isotopes only occur within artificial settings.
I’m a little disappointed by these findings, but I suppose it’s for the best that we don’t have highly unstable isotopes occurring in abundance. Likewise, the good news is that we always have the alternative methods for determining the ages of things that exist within the span of our lifetimes.


One thought on “Dating Everyday Objects?

  1. While it is disappointing at how few viable isotopes there are for radiometric dating, especially among the synthetic only elements, the ones we currently use such as carbon 14 are still effective and can be used for most applications and given the inherent radioactivity of all such agents as you said it would be very good that these don’t occur in abundance.


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