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An additional nice feature of isochron ages is that an "uncertainty" in the age is automatically computed from the fit of the data to a line.

A routine statistical operation on the set of data yields both a slope of the best-fit line (an age) and a variance in the slope (an uncertainty in the age).

Note that the mere existence of these assumptions do not render the simpler dating methods entirely useless.

In many cases, there are independent cues (such as geologic setting or the chemistry of the specimen) which can suggest that such assumptions are entirely reasonable.

It depends on the accuracy of the measurements and the fit of the data to the line in each individual case.) For example, with Rb/Sr isochron dating, any age less than a few tens of millions of years is usually indistinguishable from zero.

That encompasses the entire young-Earth timescale thousands of times over." in the decay equation.

Since the data points have the same Y-value and a range of X-values, they initially fall on a horizontal line: half-lives will include zero within its range of uncertainty.

There is no good way to tell how close the computed result is likely to be to the actual age.

The better the fit of the data to the line, the lower the uncertainty.

For further information on fitting of lines to data (also known as regression analysis), see: Note that the methods used by isotope geologists (as described by York) are much more complicated than those described by Gonick.

The simplest form of isotopic age computation involves substituting three measurements into an equation of four variables, and solving for the fourth.

The equation is the one which describes radioactive decay: If one of these assumptions has been violated, the simple computation above yields an incorrect age.However, the methods must be used with care -- and one should be cautious about investing much confidence in the resulting age...