In fact, I have sitting in front of me on my desk a two-volume work on is not light reading, but I think that every Earth or space scientist should have a copy in his or her library -- and make that the latest edition.In the time since the previous geologic time scale was published in 2004, most of the boundaries between Earth's various geologic ages have shifted by a million years or so, and one of them (the Carnian-Norian boundary within the late Triassic epoch) has shifted by 12 million years.
Conveniently, the vast majority of rocks exposed on the surface of Earth are less than a few hundred million years old, which corresponds to the time when there was abundant multicellular life here.
Look closely at the Geologic Time Scale chart, and you might notice that the first three columns don't even go back 600 million years.
The Geologic Time Scale is up there with the Periodic Table of Elements as one of those iconic, almost talismanic scientific charts.
Long before I understood what any of it meant, I'd daydream in science class, staring at this chart, sounding out the names, wondering what those black-and-white bars meant, wondering what the colors meant, wondering why the divisions were so uneven, knowing it represented some kind of deep, meaningful, systematic organization of scientific knowledge, and hoping I'd have it all figured out one day.
The science of paleontology, and its use for relative age dating, was well-established before the science of isotopic age-dating was developed.
Nowadays, age-dating of rocks has established pretty precise numbers for the absolute ages of the boundaries between fossil assemblages, but there's still uncertainty in those numbers, even for Earth.Major boundaries in Earth's time scale happen when there were major extinction events that wiped certain kinds of fossils out of the fossil record.This is called the chronostratigraphic time scale -- that is, the division of time (the "chrono-" part) according to the relative position in the rock record (that's "stratigraphy").With this kind of uncertainty, Felix Gradstein, editor of the For clarity and precision in international communication, the rock record of Earth's history is subdivided into a "chronostratigraphic" scale of standardized global stratigraphic units, such as "Devonian", "Miocene", " ammonite zone", or "polarity Chron C25r".Unlike the continuous ticking clock of the "chronometric" scale (measured in years before the year AD 2000), the chronostratigraphic scale is based on relative time units in which global reference points at boundary stratotypes define the limits of the main formalized units, such as "Permian".The more fossils you find at a location, the more you can fine-tune the relative age of this layer versus that layer.