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Radiometric dating or radioactive dating is a technique used to date materials such as rocks or carbon, in which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed.
The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay.
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.
Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.