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Also, by extrapolating backward in time to a situation when there was no lead that had been produced by radiogenic processes, a figure of about 4.6 billion years is obtained for the minimum age of the Earth.

This figure is of the same order as ages obtained for certain meteorites and lunar rocks.

This method has wide applications in, for example, the fields of industrial mineralogy, materials science, igneous geochemistry, and metamorphic petrology.

Microscopic fossils, such as ostracods, foraminifera, and pollen grains, are common in sediments of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras (from about 251 million years ago to the present).

The metamorphic petrologist can use the bulk composition of a recrystallized rock to define the structure of the original rock, assuming that no structural change has occurred during the metamorphic process.

Next, the electron microprobe bombards a thin microscopic slice of a mineral in a sample with a beam of electrons, which can determine the chemical composition of the mineral almost instantly.

This geochemical method has been used to differentiate successive stages of igneous rocks in the plate-tectonic cycle.Versions of the modern mass spectrometer were invented in the early 1920s and 1930s, and during World War II the device was improved substantially to help in the development of the atomic bomb. By determining the amount of the parent and daughter isotopes present in a sample and by knowing their rate of radioactive decay (each radioisotope has its own decay constant), the isotopic age of the sample can be calculated.For dating minerals and rocks, investigators commonly use the following couplets of parent and daughter isotopes: thorium-232–lead-208, uranium-235–lead-207, samarium-147–neodymium-143, rubidium-87–strontium-87, potassium-40–argon-40, and argon-40–argon-39.In 1912 another German physicist, Max von Laue, realized that X-rays were scattered and deflected at regular angles when they passed through a copper sulfate crystal, and so he produced the first X-ray diffraction pattern on a photographic film.

A year later William Bragg of Britain and his son Lawrence perceived that such a pattern reflects the layers of atoms in the crystal structure, and they succeeded in determining for the first time the atomic crystal structure of the mineral halite (sodium chloride).

With all these deformation experiments, it is necessary to scale down as precisely as possible variables such as the time and velocity of the experiment and the viscosity and temperature of the material from the natural to the laboratory conditions.