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They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.
This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time order.
The atoms of some chemical elements have different forms, called isotopes.
A method for determining the age of an object based on the concentration of a particular radioactive isotope contained within it.
The amount of the isotope in the object is compared to the amount of the isotope's decay products.