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He established that lead was the final decay product of uranium, noted that the lead-uranium ratio was greater in older rocks and, acting on a suggestion by Ernest Rutherford, was the first to measure the age of rocks by the decay of uranium to lead, in 1907.

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Fission tracks are sensitive to heat, and therefore the technique is useful at unraveling the thermal evolution of rocks and minerals.

Most current research using fission tracks is aimed at: a) understanding the evolution of mountain belts; b) determining the source or provenance of sediments; c) studying the thermal evolution of basins; d) determining the age of poorly dated strata; and e) dating and provenance determination of archeological artifacts.

Since the rate at which this conversion occurs is known, it is possible to determine the elapsed time since the mineral formed by measuring the ratio of U, as the source of radiogenic heat.

The core also likely contains radiogenic sources, although how much is uncertain.

Chemical etching of polished internal surfaces of these minerals reveals spontaneous fission tracks, and the track density can be determined.

Because etched tracks are relatively large (in the range 1 to 15 micrometres), counting can be done by optical microscopy, although other imaging techniques are used.Unlike other isotopic dating methods, the "daughter" in fission track dating is an effect in the crystal rather than a daughter isotope.Uranium-238 undergoes spontaneous fission decay at a known rate, and it is the only isotope with a decay rate that is relevant to the significant production of natural fission tracks; other isotopes have fission decay rates too slow to be of consequence.Unlike other commonly used radiometric dating techniques such as rubidium-strontium or uranium-lead dating, the uranium-thorium technique does not measure accumulation of a stable end-member decay product.Instead, the uranium-thorium technique calculates an age from the degree to which secular equilibrium has been restored between the radioactive isotope thorium-230 and its radioactive parent uranium-234 within a sample.These particles interact with atoms in atmospheric gases, producing a cascade of secondary particles that may in turn interact and reduce their energies in many reactions as they pass through the atmosphere.

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