Radioactive dating of fossils depends on the decay of

This left branch is called a discontinuous reaction series because each mineral has a different crystalline structure.

Recall that olivine is composed of a single tetrahedra and that the other minerals in this sequence are composed of single chains, double chains, and sheet structures, respectively.

Geologists assert that older dates are found deeper down in the geologic column, which they take as evidence that radiometric dating is giving true ages, since it is apparent that rocks that are deeper must be older.

But even if it is true that older radiometric dates are found lower down in the geologic column, which is open to question, this can potentially be explained by processes occurring in magma chambers which cause the lava erupting earlier to appear older than the lava erupting later.

These long time periods are computed by measuring the ratio of daughter to parent substance in a rock and inferring an age based on this ratio.

This age is computed under the assumption that the parent substance (say, uranium) gradually decays to the daughter substance (say, lead), so the higher the ratio of lead to uranium, the older the rock must be.

However, geologists have found that various eruptive stages of the same volcano often extrude lavas exhibiting somewhat different mineral compositions, particularly if an extensive period of time separated the eruptions.

Ordinarily, these reactions are not complete so that various amounts of each of these minerals may exist at any given time.

The right branch of the reaction series is a continuum in which the earliest formed calcium-rich feldspar crystals react with the sodium ions contained in the melt to become progressively more sodium rich.

The following quote from The Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology by Tarbuck & Lutgens, pp.

55-57, (1987), gives us an idea of the tremendous complexity of the processes that occur when magma solidifies.

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