The simplest form of isotopic age computation involves substituting three measurements into an equation of four variables, and solving for the fourth.
(For brevity's sake, hereafter I will refer to the parent isotope as ).
In addition, it requires that these measurements be taken from several different objects which all formed at the same time from a common pool of materials.
(Rocks which include several different minerals are excellent for this.) Each group of measurements is plotted as a data point on a graph.
The X-axis of the graph is the ratio of in a closed system over time.
It is not easily explained, in the general case, in any other way.
The data points would be expected to start out on a line if certain initial conditions were met.Consider some molten rock in which isotopes and elements are distributed in a reasonably homogeneous manner.However, the methods must be used with care -- and one should be cautious about investing much confidence in the resulting age...especially in absence of cross-checks by different methods, or if presented without sufficient information to judge the context in which it was obtained.Isochron methods avoid the problems which can potentially result from both of the above assumptions.Isochron dating requires a fourth measurement to be taken, which is the amount of a different isotope of the same element as the daughter product of radioactive decay.