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Using this technique, called radiometric dating, scientists are able to "see" back in time.The most widely known form of radiometric dating is carbon-14 dating.Measuring the uranium-to-lead ratios in the oldest rocks on Earth gave scientists an estimated age of the planet of 4.6 billion years.Segment from A Science Odyssey: "Origins."Geologists have calculated the age of Earth at 4.6 billion years.By using radiometric dating to determine the age of igneous brackets, researchers can accurately determine the age of the sedimentary layers between them.Using the basic ideas of bracketing and radiometric dating, researchers have determined the age of rock layers all over the world.This information has also helped determine the age of the Earth itself.
But it wasn't until the late 1700s -- when Scottish geologist James Hutton, who observed sediments building up on the landscape, set out to show that rocks were time clocks -- that serious scientific interest in geological age began.Unfortunately, these elements don't exist in dinosaur fossils themselves.Each of them typically exists in igneous rock, or rock made from cooled magma.The age of the planet, though, was important to Charles Darwin and other evolutionary theorists: The biological evidence they were collecting showed that nature needed vastly more time than previously thought to sculpt the world.A breakthrough came with the discovery of radioactivity at the beginning of the 1900s.
So to determine the age of sedimentary rock layers, researchers first have to find neighboring layers of Earth that include igneous rock, such as volcanic ash.