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Another possibility is spontaneous fission into two or more nuclides.

While the moment in time at which a particular nucleus decays is unpredictable, a collection of atoms of a radioactive nuclide decays exponentially at a rate described by a parameter known as the half-life, usually given in units of years when discussing dating techniques.

The temperature at which this happens is known as the closure temperature or blocking temperature and is specific to a particular material and isotopic system.

Isotopic systems that have been exploited for radiometric dating have half-lives ranging from only about 10 years (e.g., tritium) to over 100 billion years (e.g., samarium-147).

The procedures used to isolate and analyze the parent and daughter nuclides must be precise and accurate.

This normally involves isotope-ratio mass spectrometry. The precision of a dating method depends in part on the half-life of the radioactive isotope involved.

For instance, carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years.

After an organism has been dead for 60,000 years, so little carbon-14 is left that accurate dating can not be established.

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