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For example, a geologist may examine a cutting where the rocks appear as shown in Figure 1.
Here he can see that some curved sedimentary rocks have been cut vertically by a sheet of volcanic rock called a dyke.
From the mapped field relationships, it is a simple matter to work out a geological cross-section and the relative timing of the geologic events.
Or he may suggest that the result was due to a characteristic of the lava—that the dyke had inherited an old ‘age’. 200.4 ± 3.2 million years) implies that the calculated date of 200.4 million years is accurate to plus or minus 3.2 million years.
It is clear that the sedimentary rock was deposited and folded before the dyke was squeezed into place.
By looking at other outcrops in the area, our geologist is able to draw a geological map which records how the rocks are related to each other in the field.
No matter what the radiometric date turned out to be, our geologist would always be able to ‘interpret’ it.
He would simply change his assumptions about the history of the rock to explain the result in a plausible way. Wasserburg, who received the 1986 Crafoord Prize in Geosciences, said, ‘There are no bad chronometers, only bad interpretations of them!