Radioactive elements were incorporated into the Earth when the Solar System formed.
We can use the leaky nature of rocks and minerals to isotopic diffusion to estimate the cooling history of rocks - which is very important in tracking the passage of rocks to the surface as their overburden is eroded.
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A commonly used radiometric dating technique relies on the breakdown of potassium (Ar in an igneous rock can tell us the amount of time that has passed since the rock crystallized.
If an igneous or other rock is metamorphosed, its radiometric clock is reset, and potassium-argon measurements can be used to tell the number of years that has passed since metamorphism.
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