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That’s because zircon is super tough – it resists weathering. Each radioactive isotope works best for particular applications.

Yet, you’ve heard the news: Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1,000 years old. Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own.

For example, which is older, the bricks in a building or the building itself?

Are there repairs or cracks in the sidewalk that came after the sidewalk was built?

What’s more, if the whole rock is badly weathered, it will be hard to find an intact mineral grain containing radioactive isotopes.

You might have noticed that many of the oldest age dates come from a mineral called zircon.

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