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Another branch of experimental science relates to the deformation of rocks. Studies of the behaviour of rocks in the laboratory have shown that their strength increases with confining pressure but decreases with rise in temperature.Down to depths of a few kilometres the strength of rocks would be expected to increase.The oldest known rocks on Earth, estimated at 4.28 billion years old, are the faux amphibolite volcanic deposits of the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt in Quebec, Canada.A radiometric dating technique that measures the ratio of the rare earth elements neodymium and samarium present in a rock sample was used to produce the estimate.Van ’t Hoff’s aim was to explain the succession of mineral salts present in Permian rocks of Germany.His success at producing from aqueous solutions artificial minerals and rocks like those found in natural salt deposits stimulated studies of minerals crystallizing from silicate melts simulating the magmas from which igneous rocks have formed.

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Next, the electron microprobe bombards a thin microscopic slice of a mineral in a sample with a beam of electrons, which can determine the chemical composition of the mineral almost instantly.

Versions of the modern mass spectrometer were invented in the early 1920s and 1930s, and during World War II the device was improved substantially to help in the development of the atomic bomb. By determining the amount of the parent and daughter isotopes present in a sample and by knowing their rate of radioactive decay (each radioisotope has its own decay constant), the isotopic age of the sample can be calculated.

For dating minerals and rocks, investigators commonly use the following couplets of parent and daughter isotopes: thorium-232–lead-208, uranium-235–lead-207, samarium-147–neodymium-143, rubidium-87–strontium-87, potassium-40–argon-40, and argon-40–argon-39.

At greater depths the temperature effect should become dominant, and response to stress should result in flow rather than fracture of rocks. Rubey, demonstrated that fluids in the pores of rock may reduce internal friction and permit gliding over nearly horizontal planes of the large overthrust blocks associated with folded mountains.

More recently the Norwegian petrologist Hans Ramberg performed many experiments with a large centrifuge that produced a negative gravity effect and thus was able to create structures simulating salt domes, which rise because of the relatively low density of the salt in comparison with that of surrounding rocks.

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