An Essay on Radiometric Dating. Radiometric dating methods are the strongest direct evidence that geologists have for the age of the Earth. All these methods point to Earth being very, very old - several billions of years old. Young-Earth creationists - that is, creationists who believe that Earth is no more than 10, years old - are fond of attacking radiometric dating methods as being full of inaccuracies and riddled with sources of error. When I first became interested in the creation-evolution debate, in late , I looked around for sources that clearly and simply explained what radiometric dating is and why young-Earth creationists are driven to discredit it. I found several good sources, but none that seemed both complete enough to stand alone and simple enough for a non-geologist to understand them.
The above equation makes use of information on the composition of parent and daughter isotopes at the time the material being tested cooled below its closure temperature. This is well-established for most isotopic systems.
An isochron plot is used to solve the age equation graphically and calculate the age of the sample and the original composition. Radiometric dating has been carried out since when it was invented by Ernest Rutherford as a method by which one might determine the age of the Earth.
In the century since then the techniques have been greatly improved and expanded. The mass spectrometer was invented in the s and began to be used in radiometric dating in the s.
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It operates by generating a beam of ionized atoms from the sample under test. The ions then travel through a magnetic field, which diverts them into different sampling sensors, known as " Faraday cups ", depending on their mass and level of ionization. On impact in the cups, the ions set up a very weak current that can be measured to determine the rate of impacts and the relative concentrations of different atoms in the beams. Uranium-lead radiometric dating involves using uranium or uranium to date a substance's absolute age.
This scheme has been refined to the point that the error margin in dates of rocks can be as low as less than two million years in two-and-a-half billion years. Uranium-lead dating is often performed on the mineral zircon ZrSiO 4though it can be used on other materials, such as baddeleyiteas well as monazite see: monazite geochronology. Zircon has a very high closure temperature, is resistant to mechanical weathering and is very chemically inert.
Zircon also forms multiple crystal layers during metamorphic events, which each may record an isotopic age of the event. One of its great advantages is that any sample provides two clocks, one based on uranium's decay to lead with a half-life of about million years, and one based on uranium's decay to lead with a half-life of about 4. This can be seen in the concordia diagram, where the samples plot along an errorchron straight line which intersects the concordia curve at the age of the sample.
This involves the alpha decay of Sm to Nd with a half-life of 1. Accuracy levels of within twenty million years in ages of two-and-a-half billion years are achievable. This involves electron capture or positron decay of potassium to argon Potassium has a half-life of 1. This is based on the beta decay of rubidium to strontiumwith a half-life of 50 billion years.
This scheme is used to date old igneous and metamorphic rocksand has also been used to date lunar samples. Closure temperatures are so high that they are not a concern. Rubidium-strontium dating is not as precise as the uranium-lead method, with errors of 30 to 50 million years for a 3-billion-year-old sample.
Application of in situ analysis Laser-Ablation ICP-MS within single mineral grains in faults have shown that the Rb-Sr method can be used to decipher episodes of fault movement.
A relatively short-range dating technique is based on the decay of uranium into thorium, a substance with a half-life of about 80, years. It is accompanied by a sister process, in which uranium decays into protactinium, which has a half-life of 32, years. While uranium is water-soluble, thorium and protactinium are not, and so they are selectively precipitated into ocean-floor sedimentsfrom which their ratios are measured. The scheme has a range of several hundred thousand years.
A related method is ionium-thorium datingwhich measures the ratio of ionium thorium to thorium in ocean sediment. Radiocarbon dating is also simply called carbon dating. Carbon is a radioactive isotope of carbon, with a half-life of 5, years   which is very short compared with the above isotopesand decays into nitrogen.
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Carbon, though, is continuously created through collisions of neutrons generated by cosmic rays with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere and thus remains at a near-constant level on Earth. The carbon ends up as a trace component in atmospheric carbon dioxide CO 2. A carbon-based life form acquires carbon during its lifetime.
Plants acquire it through photosynthesisand animals acquire it from consumption of plants and other animals. When an organism dies, it ceases to take in new carbon, and the existing isotope decays with a characteristic half-life years. The proportion of carbon left when the remains of the organism are examined provides an indication of the time elapsed since its death. This makes carbon an ideal dating method to date the age of bones or the remains of an organism.
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The carbon dating limit lies around 58, to 62, years. The rate of creation of carbon appears to be roughly constant, as cross-checks of carbon dating with other dating methods show it gives consistent results. However, local eruptions of volcanoes or other events that give off large amounts of carbon dioxide can reduce local concentrations of carbon and give inaccurate dates. The releases of carbon dioxide into the biosphere as a consequence of industrialization have also depressed the proportion of carbon by a few percent; conversely, the amount of carbon was increased by above-ground nuclear bomb tests that were conducted into the early s.
Also, an increase in the solar wind or the Earth's magnetic field above the current value would depress the amount of carbon created in the atmosphere. This involves inspection of a polished slice of a material to determine the density of "track" markings left in it by the spontaneous fission of uranium impurities. The uranium content of the sample has to be known, but that can be determined by placing a plastic film over the polished slice of the material, and bombarding it with slow neutrons.
This causes induced fission of U, as opposed to the spontaneous fission of U. The fission tracks produced by this process are recorded in the plastic film. The uranium content of the material can then be calculated from the number of tracks and the neutron flux.
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This scheme has application over a wide range of geologic dates. For dates up to a few million years micastektites glass fragments from volcanic eruptionsand meteorites are best used.
Older materials can be dated using zirconapatitetitaniteepidote and garnet which have a variable amount of uranium content.
The technique has potential applications for detailing the thermal history of a deposit. The residence time of 36 Cl in the atmosphere is about 1 week. Thus, as an event marker of s water in soil and ground water, 36 Cl is also useful for dating waters less than 50 years before the present.
Luminescence dating methods are not radiometric dating methods in that they do not rely on abundances of isotopes to calculate age. Instead, they are a consequence of background radiation on certain minerals.
Over time, ionizing radiation is absorbed by mineral grains in sediments and archaeological materials such as quartz and potassium feldspar. The radiation causes charge to remain within the grains in structurally unstable "electron traps". Exposure to sunlight or heat releases these charges, effectively "bleaching" the sample and resetting the clock to zero. The trapped charge accumulates over time at a rate determined by the amount of background radiation at the location where the sample was buried.
Stimulating these mineral grains using either light optically stimulated luminescence or infrared stimulated luminescence dating or heat thermoluminescence dating causes a luminescence signal to be emitted as the stored unstable electron energy is released, the intensity of which varies depending on the amount of radiation absorbed during burial and specific properties of the mineral.
These methods can be used to date the age of a sediment layer, as layers deposited on top would prevent the grains from being "bleached" and reset by sunlight.
Pottery shards can be dated to the last time they experienced significant heat, generally when they were fired in a kiln.
Absolute radiometric dating requires a measurable fraction of parent nucleus to remain in the sample rock. For rocks dating back to the beginning of the solar system, this requires extremely long-lived parent isotopes, making measurement of such rocks' exact ages imprecise. To be able to distinguish the relative ages of rocks from such old material, and to get a better time resolution than that available from long-lived isotopes, short-lived isotopes that are no longer present in the rock can be used.
At the beginning of the solar system, there were several relatively short-lived radionuclides like 26 Al, 60 Fe, 53 Mn, and I present within the solar nebula. These radionuclides-possibly produced by the explosion of a supernova-are extinct today, but their decay products can be detected in very old material, such as that which constitutes meteorites. By measuring the decay products of extinct radionuclides with a mass spectrometer and using isochronplots, it is possible to determine relative ages of different events in the early history of the solar system.
Dating methods based on extinct radionuclides can also be calibrated with the U-Pb method to give absolute ages. Thus both the approximate age and a high time resolution can be obtained.
Generally a shorter half-life leads to a higher time resolution at the expense of timescale. The iodine-xenon chronometer  is an isochron technique. Samples are exposed to neutrons in a nuclear reactor. This converts the only stable isotope of iodine I into Xe via neutron capture followed by beta decay of I. After irradiation, samples are heated in a series of steps and the xenon isotopic signature of the gas evolved in each step is analysed. Samples of a meteorite called Shallowater are usually included in the irradiation to monitor the conversion efficiency from I to Xe.
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This in turn corresponds to a difference in age of closure in the early solar system. Another example of short-lived extinct radionuclide dating is the 26 Al - 26 Mg chronometer, which can be used to estimate the relative ages of chondrules. The 26 Al - 26 Mg chronometer gives an estimate of the time period for formation of primitive meteorites of only a few million years 1.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Technique used to date materials such as rocks or carbon. See also: Radioactive decay law. Main article: Closure temperature. Main article: Uranium-lead dating. Main article: Samarium-neodymium dating. Main article: Potassium-argon dating. Main article: Rubidium-strontium dating. Main article: Uranium-thorium dating.
Main article: Radiocarbon dating. Main article: fission track dating. Main article: Luminescence dating. Earth sciences portal Geophysics portal Physics portal.
Part II. The disintegration products of uranium".
American Journal of Science. In Roth, Etienne; Poty, Bernard eds. Nuclear Methods of Dating. Springer Netherlands. Applied Radiation and Isotopes. Annual Review of Nuclear Science. Bibcode : Natur. January Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Brent The age of the earth. Stanford, Calif. Radiogenic isotope geology 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Principles and applications of geochemistry: a comprehensive textbook for geology students 2nd ed. For dating minerals and rocks, investigators commonly use the following couplets of parent and daughter isotopes: thorium-lead, uranium-lead, samarium-neodymium, rubidium-strontium, potassium-argon, and argon-argon The SHRIMP Sensitive High Resolution Ion Microprobe enables the accurate determination of the uranium-lead age of the mineral zircon, and this has revolutionized the understanding of the isotopic age of formation of zircon-bearing igneous granitic rocks.
Another technological development is the ICP-MS Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometerwhich is able to provide the isotopic age of the minerals zircon, titanite, rutile, and monazite.
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These minerals are common to many igneous and metamorphic rocks. Such techniques have had an enormous impact on scientific knowledge of Earth history because precise dates can now be obtained on rocks in all orogenic mountain belts ranging in age from the early Archean about 4 billion years old to the early Neogene roughly 20 million years old.
The oldest known rocks on Earth, estimated at 4. 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. Also, by extrapolating backward in time to a situation when there was no lead that had been produced by radiogenic processes, a figure of about 4.
This figure is of the same order as ages obtained for certain meteorites and lunar rocks. Between and he elucidated the complex sequence of chemical reactions attending the precipitation of salts evaporites from the evaporation of seawater. 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.
Bowen conducted extensive phase-equilibrium studies of silicate systems, brought together in his Evolution of the Igneous Rocks Experimental petrology also provides valuable data on the stability limits of individual metamorphic minerals and of the reactions between different minerals in a wide variety of chemical systems.
Thus, the metamorphic petrologist today can compare the minerals and mineral assemblages found in natural rocks with comparable examples produced in the laboratory, the pressure-temperature limits of which have been well defined by experimental petrology.
Another branch of experimental science relates to the deformation of rocks. In the American physicist P. Bridgman developed a technique for subjecting rock samples to high pressures similar to those deep in the Earth.
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. At greater depths the temperature effect should become dominant, and response to stress should result in flow rather than fracture of rocks.
But only if a radioactive dating other objects based on the process by measuring the most of the number one scientific technique that i. Often called radiometric date rocks it was solidified. We know that radiometric date them and how does the rocks. Radiometric dating In , shortly after the discovery of radioactivity, the American chemist Bertram Boltwood suggested that lead is one of the disintegration products of uranium, in which case the older a uranium-bearing mineral the greater should be its proportional part of lead. Radiometric dating is the way that scientists determine the age of matter. Radiometric dating techniques are applied to inorganic matter (rocks, for example) while radiocarbon dating is the method used for dating organic matter (plant or animal remains).
Rubeydemonstrated 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.
With all these deformation experiments, it is necessary to scale down as precisely as possible variables such as the time and velocity of the experiment and the viscosity and temperature of the material from the natural to the laboratory conditions.
In another German physicist, Max von Lauerealized that X-rays were scattered and deflected at regular angles when they passed through a copper sulfate crystal, and so he produced the first X-ray diffraction pattern on a photographic film. A year later William Bragg of Britain and his son Lawrence perceived that such a pattern reflects the layers of atoms in the crystal structureand they succeeded in determining for the first time the atomic crystal structure of the mineral halite sodium chloride.
These discoveries had a long-lasting influence on crystallography because they led to the development of the X-ray powder diffractometer, which is now widely used to identify minerals and to ascertain their crystal structure. Advanced analytic chemical equipment has revolutionized the understanding of the composition of rocks and minerals. For example, the XRF X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer can quantify the major and trace element abundances of many chemical elements in a rock sample down to parts-per-million concentrations.
This geochemical method has been used to differentiate successive stages of igneous rocks in the plate-tectonic cycle. The metamorphic petrologist can use the bulk composition of a recrystallized rock to define the structure of the original rock, assuming that no structural change has occurred during the metamorphic process.
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. This method has wide applications in, for example, the fields of industrial mineralogymaterials scienceigneous geochemistryand metamorphic petrology.
Microscopic fossils, such as ostracods, foraminifera, and pollen grains, are common in sediments of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras from about million years ago to the present. Because the rock chips brought up in oil wells are so small, a high-resolution instrument known as a scanning electron microscope had to be developed to study the microfossils.
The classification of microfossils of organisms that lived within relatively short time spans has enabled Mesozoic-Cenozoic sediments to be subdivided in remarkable detail.
Radiometric Dating. For many people, radiometric dating might be the one scientific technique that most blatantly seems to challenge the Bible's record of recent creation. For this reason, ICR research has long focused on the science behind these dating techniques. Along with scores of other Bible-believing geologists, ICR scientists have made key observations that compel us to reject the . Radiometric dating is a means of determining the age of very old objects, including the Earth itself. Radiometric dating depends on the decay of isotopes, which are different forms of the same element that include the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons in their atoms.