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Fission tracks and micro-cracks within the crystal will further extend this radiation damage network.
If a series of zircon samples has lost different amounts of lead, the samples generate a discordant line.
The upper intercept of the concordia and the discordia line will reflect the original age of formation, while the lower intercept will reflect the age of the event that led to open system behavior and therefore the lead loss; although there has been some disagreement regarding the meaning of the lower intercept ages.
The term U–Pb dating normally implies the coupled use of both decay schemes in the 'concordia diagram' (see below).
However, use of a single decay scheme (usually Pb) leads to the U–Pb isochron dating method, analogous to the rubidium-strontium dating method.
Finally, ages can also be determined from the U–Pb system by analysis of Pb isotope ratios alone. Clair Cameron Patterson, an American geochemist who pioneered studies of uranium–lead radiometric dating methods, is famous for having used it to obtain one of the earliest estimates of the age of the Earth.