Radioactive elements are unstable; they breakdown spontaneously into more stable atoms over time, a process known as radioactive decay.
Radioactive decay occurs at a constant rate, specific to each radioactive isotope.
Fortunately, distinctive features such as index fossils can aid in matching, or correlating, rocks and formations from several incomplete areas to create a more complete geologic record for relative dating.
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If a geologist claims to be younger than his or her co-worker, that is a relative age.
If a geologist claims to be 45 years old, that is an absolute age.
When living things die, they stop taking in carbon-14, and the radioactive clock is "set"!
Any dead material incorporated with sedimentary deposits is a possible candidate for carbon-14 dating.
Relative dating places events or rocks in their chronologic sequence or order of occurrence.