Different methods of radiometric dating vary in the timescale over which they are accurate and the materials to which they can be applied.
All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements, each with its own atomic number, indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.
It is therefore essential to have as much information as possible about the material being dated and to check for possible signs of alteration.
Precision is enhanced if measurements are taken on multiple samples from different locations of the rock body.
By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.
Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.
The precision of a dating method depends in part on the half-life of the radioactive isotope involved.