You cannot predict exactly when any one particular grain will get to the bottom, but you can predict from one time to the next how long the whole pile of sand takes to fall.
Once all of the sand has fallen out of the top, the hourglass will no longer keep time unless it is turned over again.
He was employed at Caltech's Division of Geological & Planetary Sciences at the time of writing the first edition.
He is presently employed in the Space & Atmospheric Sciences Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Most processes that we are familiar with are like sand in an hourglass.
In exponential decay the amount of material decreases by half during each half-life.
When the glass is turned over, sand runs from the top to the bottom.
Radioactive atoms are like individual grains of sand--radioactive decays are like the falling of grains from the top to the bottom of the glass.
Some of the atoms eventually change from one element to another by a process called radioactive decay.
If there are a lot of atoms of the original element, called the parent element, the atoms decay to another element, called the daughter element, at a predictable rate.
This paper describes in relatively simple terms how a number of the dating techniques work, how accurately the half-lives of the radioactive elements and the rock dates themselves are known, and how dates are checked with one another.