Radiometric dating

January Fossils provide a record of the history of life. Smith is known as the Father of English Geology. Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods. Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better. Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating. These skeptics do not provide scientific evidence for their views. Current understanding of the history of life is probably close to the truth because it is based on repeated and careful testing and consideration of data. The rejection of the validity of fossils and of dating by religious fundamentalists creates a problem for them: Millions of fossils have been discovered.

Changing Views of the History of the Earth

Idealized and simplified diagram of the Grand Canyon There are a number of lava flows on the plateau that the canyon is cut into yellow in Figure 1, above. These lava flows are Cenozoic in age, and some of them spill into the canyon. The walls of the canyon are mostly cut into horizontal rock layers of Paleozoic age green in Figure 1, above. There is an angular unconformity at the bottom of the Paleozoic layers. An angular unconformity is the result of tilting and eroding of the lower layers before the upper ones are deposited.

These tilted and eroded layers are Precambrian in age blue in Figure 1, above.

acquired trait: A phenotypic characteristic, acquired during growth and development, that is not genetically based and therefore cannot be passed on to the next generation (for example, the large.

Unlike the radioactive isotopes discussed above, these isotopes are constantly being replenished in small amounts in one of two ways. The bottom two entries, uranium and thorium , are replenished as the long-lived uranium atoms decay. These will be discussed in the next section. The other three, Carbon , beryllium , and chlorine are produced by cosmic rays–high energy particles and photons in space–as they hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Very small amounts of each of these isotopes are present in the air we breathe and the water we drink. As a result, living things, both plants and animals, ingest very small amounts of carbon , and lake and sea sediments take up small amounts of beryllium and chlorine The cosmogenic dating clocks work somewhat differently than the others. Carbon in particular is used to date material such as bones, wood, cloth, paper, and other dead tissue from either plants or animals.

To a rough approximation, the ratio of carbon to the stable isotopes, carbon and carbon , is relatively constant in the atmosphere and living organisms, and has been well calibrated.

Unreliability of Radiometric Dating and Old Age of the Earth

Radioactive decay[ edit ] Example of a radioactive decay chain from lead Pb to lead Pb. The final decay product, lead Pb , is stable and can no longer undergo spontaneous radioactive decay. All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements , each with its own atomic number , indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.

Covering radiogenic, radioactive, and stable isotopes, thiscomprehensive text contains five sections that present fundamentalsof atomic physics; dating methods for terrestrial andextraterrestrial rocks by means of radiogenic isotopes;geochemistry of radiogenic isotopes; dating by means of U,Th-series and cosmogenic radionuclides; and the fractionation ofthe stable isotopes of H, C, N, O, and S.

The Radiometric Dating Game Radiometric dating methods estimate the age of rocks using calculations based on the decay rates of radioactive elements such as uranium, strontium, and potassium. On the surface, radiometric dating methods appear to give powerful support to the statement that life has existed on the earth for hundreds of millions, even billions, of years. We are told that these methods are accurate to a few percent, and that there are many different methods.

We are told that of all the radiometric dates that are measured, only a few percent are anomalous. This gives us the impression that all but a small percentage of the dates computed by radiometric methods agree with the assumed ages of the rocks in which they are found, and that all of these various methods almost always give ages that agree with each other to within a few percentage points. Since there doesn’t seem to be any systematic error that could cause so many methods to agree with each other so often, it seems that there is no other rational conclusion than to accept these dates as accurate.


Leibnitz reworked Descartes’s cosmogony. Protogea was published much later in An essay toward a Natural History of the Earth. Woodward came down fairly strongly for the view that the flood was an act of God that could not be accounted for by normal physical processes.

The rocks appeared to be astonishingly old, ranging in age from million to more than 2 billion years. But at the time, no one knew about isotopes. But at the time, no one knew about isotopes. Once isotopes were explicated, during the s, it became clear that .

History of Technology Heroes and Villains – A little light reading Here you will find a brief history of technology. Initially inspired by the development of batteries, it covers technology in general and includes some interesting little known, or long forgotten, facts as well as a few myths about the development of technology, the science behind it, the context in which it occurred and the deeds of the many personalities, eccentrics and charlatans involved.

You may find the Search Engine , the Technology Timeline or the Hall of Fame quicker if you are looking for something or somebody in particular. Scroll down and see what treasures you can discover. Background We think of a battery today as a source of portable power, but it is no exaggeration to say that the battery is one of the most important inventions in the history of mankind. Volta’s pile was at first a technical curiosity but this new electrochemical phenomenon very quickly opened the door to new branches of both physics and chemistry and a myriad of discoveries, inventions and applications.

The electronics, computers and communications industries, power engineering and much of the chemical industry of today were founded on discoveries made possible by the battery. Pioneers It is often overlooked that throughout the nineteenth century, most of the electrical experimenters, inventors and engineers who made these advances possible had to make their own batteries before they could start their investigations.

Radiometric dating

A phenotypic characteristic, acquired during growth and development, that is not genetically based and therefore cannot be passed on to the next generation for example, the large muscles of a weightlifter. Any heritable characteristic of an organism that improves its ability to survive and reproduce in its environment. Also used to describe the process of genetic change within a population, as influenced by natural selection. A graph of the average fitness of a population in relation to the frequencies of genotypes in it.

Radiometric dating or radioactive dating is a technique used to date materials such as rocks or carbon, in which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed. The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form.

More extensive evidence, largely ignored or brushed over by most of the agnostic scientific community, is contained in the excellent book In the Beginning by Walter T. More on that later. Let’s first look at: If an animal mates with another animal not of its exact species, the result will be a sterile creature e. If animals of a given species mate and produce an abnormal offspring i. Therefore, how could the macro evolutionary process advance?

How could a “mutant” i. It would first have to be fertile itself. It would have to find a sexually compatible mate who was also fertile during its relatively miniscule life span on the overall evolutionary time scale. Thirdly, their offspring would also have to be fertile and be able to continue the advance. So if single celled animals formed in the primordial soup and they were asexual not have either male or female characteristics, but reproducing by themselves, how would they advance to a hermaphroditic state having both male and female sexual organs and then to the higher orders of animals which almost always have distinct male and female reproductive organs?

All in-between states are sterile. Evolution can only explain asexual or self-fertilizing hermaphroditic reproduction. Yet we have tens of thousands of the higher orders of species with perfectly matched sexually sets of males and females.

Carbon, Radiometric Dating

There are lots of ways to guesstimate ages, and geologists knew the earth was old a long time ago and I might add that they were mostly Christian creationist geologists. But they didn’t know how old. Radiometric dating actually allows the measurement of absolute ages, and so it is deadly to the argument that the earth cannot be more than 10, years old. Radiometric methods measure the time elapsed since the particular radiometric clock was reset. Radiocarbon dating, which is probably best known in the general public, works only on things that were once alive and are now dead.

How radiometric dating works in general: Radioactive elements decay gradually into other elements. The original element is called the parent, and the result of the decay process is .

A single watch or clock for the entire class will do. Return to top PART 1: After students have decided how to establish the relative age of each rock unit, they should list them under the block, from most recent at the top of the list to oldest at the bottom. The teacher should tell the students that there are two basic principles used by geologists to determine the sequence of ages of rocks. Younger sedimentary rocks are deposited on top of older sedimentary rocks.

Principle of cross-cutting relations: Any geologic feature is younger than anything else that it cuts across. For example, U is an unstable isotope of uranium that has 92 protons and neutrons in the nucl eus of each atom. Through a series of changes within the nucleus, it emits several particles, ending up with 82 protons and neutrons.

This is a stable condition, and there are no more changes in the atomic nucleus. A nucleus with that number of protons is called lead chemical symbol Pb. The protons 82 and neutrons total

Radiometric Dating

Example[ edit ] For example, consider the case of an igneous rock such as a granite that contains several major Sr-bearing minerals including plagioclase feldspar , K-feldspar , hornblende , biotite , and muscovite. Rubidium substitutes for potassium within the lattice of minerals at a rate proportional to its concentration within the melt. The ideal scenario according to Bowen’s reaction series would see a granite melt begin crystallizing a cumulate assemblage of plagioclase and hornblende i.

A commonly used radiometric dating technique relies on the breakdown of potassium (40 K) to argon (40 Ar). In igneous rocks, the potassium-argon “clock” is set the .

The way it really is: Even the way dates are reported e. However, although we can measure many things about a rock, we cannot directly measure its age. For example, we can measure its mass, its volume, its colour, the minerals in it, their size and the way they are arranged. We can crush the rock and measure its chemical composition and the radioactive elements it contains. But we do not have an instrument that directly measures age.

Before we can calculate the age of a rock from its measured chemical composition, we must assume what radioactive elements were in the rock when it formed. It may be surprising to learn that evolutionary geologists themselves will not accept a radiometric date unless they think it is correct—i. It is one thing to calculate a date. It is another thing to understand what it means.

Field relationships A geologist works out the relative age of a rock by carefully studying where the rock is found in the field.


The initial ratio has particular importance for studying the chemical evolution of the Earth’s mantle and crust, as we discussed in the section on igneous rocks. K-Ar Dating 40K is the radioactive isotope of K, and makes up 0. Since K is one of the 10 most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust, the decay of 40K is important in dating rocks.

But this scheme is not used because 40Ca can be present as both radiogenic and non-radiogenic Ca. Note that this is not always true. If a magma cools quickly on the surface of the Earth, some of the Ar may be trapped.

A brief introduction to isochron dating methodology. The technique (and related ones) is widely used in isotope geology.

See Article History Rock, in geology , naturally occurring and coherent aggregate of one or more minerals. Such aggregates constitute the basic unit of which the solid Earth is comprised and typically form recognizable and mappable volumes. Rocks are commonly divided into three major classes according to the processes that resulted in their formation. These classes are 1 igneous rocks, which have solidified from molten material called magma; 2 sedimentary rocks, those consisting of fragments derived from preexisting rocks or of materials precipitated from solutions; and 3 metamorphic rocks, which have been derived from either igneous or sedimentary rocks under conditions that caused changes in mineralogical composition , texture, and internal structure.

These three classes, in turn, are subdivided into numerous groups and types on the basis of various factors, the most important of which are chemical, mineralogical, and textural attributes. Rocks can be any size. Some are smaller than these grains of sand. Others, like this large rock that was dropped as a glacier melted, are as large as, or larger than, small cars.

Radiometric or Absolute Rock Dating