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The large glacier in the middle of the photo is the Robson Glacier.The river flowing from Robson Glacier drains into Berg Lake in the bottom right. The sedimentary rock that these mountains are made of formed in ocean water over 500 million years ago.The atoms of some chemical elements have different forms, called isotopes.These break down over time in a process scientists call radioactive decay.When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.Isotopes are important to geologists because each radioactive element decays at a constant rate, which is unique to that element.It is, arguably, the most integrated of all of the sciences because it involves the understanding and application of all of the other sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, astronomy, and others.

Like almost all other glaciers in the world, it is now receding even more rapidly because of human-caused climate change.Geology is displayed on a grand scale in mountainous regions, perhaps nowhere better than the Rocky Mountains in Canada (Figure 1.1).The peak on the right is Rearguard Mountain, which is a few kilometres northeast of Mount Robson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies (3,954 m).A critical feature of a good hypothesis and any resulting predictions is that they must be testable.For example, an alternative hypothesis to the one above is that an extraterrestrial organization creates rounded cobbles and places them in streams when nobody is looking.

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A prediction that follows from this hypothesis is that cobbles present in a stream will become increasingly rounded over time as they are transported downstream.

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