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The discovery of radioactive materials did more than disprove Thomson's estimate of Earth's age.

It provided a way to find the absolute age of a rock.

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Another example of yearly layers is the deposition of sediments in lakes, especially the lakes that are located at the end of glaciers.

Rapid melting of the glacier in the summer results in a thick, sandy deposit of sediment.

In regions outside the tropics, trees grow more quickly during the warm summer months than during the cooler winter.

This pattern of growth results in alternating bands of light-colored, low density "early wood" and dark, high density "late wood".

Thomson's calculations, however, were soon shown to be flawed when radioactivity was discovered in 1896.

Radioactivity is the tendency of certain atoms to decay into lighter atoms, emitting energy in the process.

Each dark band represents a winter; by counting rings it is possible to find the age of the tree (Figure 11.22).

The width of a series of growth rings can give clues to past climates and various disruptions such as forest fires.

These thick layers alternate with thin, clay-rich layers deposited during the winter.

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