Radiocarbon dating dinosaur fossils

Some isotopes of certain elements are unstable; they can spontaneously change into another kind of atom in a process called “radioactive decay.” Since this process presently happens at a known measured rate, scientists attempt to use it like a “clock” to tell how long ago a rock or fossil formed.

There are two main applications for radiometric dating.

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— Researchers have reconstructed prehistoric projectiles and points from ancient sites in what is now Alaska and studied the qualities that would make for a lethal hunting weapon.