The Age of the Earth

Shop Now Scientists use a technique called radiometric dating to estimate the ages of rocks, fossils, and the earth. Many people have been led to believe that radiometric dating methods have proved the earth to be billions of years old. With our focus on one particular form of radiometric dating—carbon dating—we will see that carbon dating strongly supports a young earth. Note that, contrary to a popular misconception, carbon dating is not used to date rocks at millions of years old. Basics Before we get into the details of how radiometric dating methods are used, we need to review some preliminary concepts from chemistry. Recall that atoms are the basic building blocks of matter. Atoms are made up of much smaller particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Radioactivity

A Abbreviations This information is included in Appendix A: Abbreviations , which includes all abbreviations and acronyms used in the Factbook, with their expansions. Acronyms An acronym is an abbreviation coined from the initial letter of each successive word in a term or phrase. In general, an acronym made up of more than the first letter of the major words in the expanded form is rendered with only an initial capital letter Comsat from Communications Satellite Corporation; an exception would be NAM from Nonaligned Movement.

Administrative divisions This entry generally gives the numbers, designatory terms, and first-order administrative divisions as approved by the US Board on Geographic Names BGN.

Although we will return to electrons later in the page we can ignore them for the first two types of decay and concentrate on just the nucleus, i.

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.

However, this causes a problem for those who believe based on the Bible that life has only existed on the earth for a few thousand years, since fossils are found in rocks that are dated to be over million years old by radiometric methods, and some fossils are found in rocks that are dated to be billions of years old. If these dates are correct, this calls the Biblical account of a recent creation of life into question.

After study and discussion of this question, I now believe that the claimed accuracy of radiometric dating methods is a result of a great misunderstanding of the data, and that the various methods hardly ever agree with each other, and often do not agree with the assumed ages of the rocks in which they are found. I believe that there is a great need for this information to be made known, so I am making this article available in the hopes that it will enlighten others who are considering these questions.

Even the creationist accounts that I have read do not adequately treat these issues. At the start, let me clarify that my main concern is not the age of the earth, the moon, or the solar system, but rather the age of life, that is, how long has life existed on earth.

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History[ edit ] All the elements and isotopes we encounter on Earth, with the exceptions of hydrogen, deuterium, helium, helium-3, and perhaps trace amounts of stable lithium and beryllium isotopes which were created in the Big Bang , were created by the s-process or the r-process in stars, and for those to be today a part of the Earth, must have been created not later than 4. All the elements created more than 4. At the time when they were created, those that were unstable began decaying immediately.

There are only two other methods to create isotopes: Unstable isotopes decay to their daughter products which may sometimes be even more unstable at a given rate; eventually, often after a series of decays, a stable isotope is reached: Stable isotopes have ratios of neutrons to protons in their nucleus which are typical about 1 for light elements e.

Airports This entry gives the total number of airports or airfields recognizable from the air.

The half-life of a radioisotope can be used to measure the age of things. The method is called radiodating. Radiodating can be used to measure the age of rocks see below and carbon dating can be used to date archaeological specimens. Using Uranium to Date Rock. Some rocks contain uranium which is radioactive and follows a decay series until it produces a stable isotope of lead.

The amount of uranium in the rock is compared to the amount of lead and then the age of the rock can be calculated. For example, it is found that there are equal amounts of uranium and lead in a rock. The proportion of uranium to lead would be 1 to 1 equal amounts. You can only use the ratio of uranium to lead to date rock if you are sure that there was no lead originally present in the rock and that all the lead in the rock has come from the decay of uranium. Using Potassium to Date Rock.

Some rocks contain the radioisotope potassium which decays to form argon Argon is a stable isotope. If the argon gas is unable to escape from the rock, then the proportions of potassium to argon can be used to date the rock.

Changing Views of the History of the Earth

See this page in: Hungarian , Russian , Spanish People who ask about carbon 14C dating usually want to know about the radiometric [1] dating methods that are claimed to give millions and billions of years—carbon dating can only give thousands of years. People wonder how millions of years could be squeezed into the biblical account of history.

The claim that the methods produce bad results essentially at random does not explain why these “bad results” are so consistently in line with mainstream science.

Reference to a case where the given method did not work This is perhaps the most common objection of all. Creationists point to instances where a given method produced a result that is clearly wrong, and then argue that therefore all such dates may be ignored. Such an argument fails on two counts: First, an instance where a method fails to work does not imply that it does not ever work. The question is not whether there are “undatable” objects, but rather whether or not all objects cannot be dated by a given method.

The fact that one wristwatch has failed to keep time properly cannot be used as a justification for discarding all watches. How many creationists would see the same time on five different clocks and then feel free to ignore it? Yet, when five radiometric dating methods agree on the age of one of the Earth’s oldest rock formations Dalrymple , p. The claim that the methods produce bad results essentially at random does not explain why these “bad results” are so consistently in line with mainstream science.

Claims that the assumptions of a method may be violated Certain requirements are involved with all radiometric dating methods. These generally include constancy of decay rate and lack of contamination gain or loss of parent or daughter isotope. Creationists often attack these requirements as “unjustified assumptions,” though they are really neither “unjustified” nor “assumptions” in most cases. Rates of radiometric decay the ones relevant to radiometric dating are thought to be based on rather fundamental properties of matter, such as the probability per unit time that a certain particle can “tunnel” out of the nucleus of the atom.

Chauvet Cave

Red horse head, below and to the left of the yellow horse heads. These horse heads and signs are in a small alcove, above a flat floor. Just a few lines have been used to outline more clearly the shape of a small mammoth, about 20 cm wide, taken up by the flowstone or stalagmite cascade at the entrance to the Brunel Chamber.

You can only use the ratio of uranium to lead to date rock if you are sure that there was no lead originally present in the rock and that all the lead in the rock has come from the decay of uranium.

As scientists will often claim something to be millions or billions of years old ages that do not conform to the Biblical account of the age of the earth , Christians are often left wondering about the accuracy of the carbon method. Carbon is an unstable, radioactive isotope of carbon As with any radioactive isotope, carbon decays over time. The half-life of carbon 14 is approximate 5, years. That means if you took one pound of percent carbon , in 5, years, you would only have half a pound left.

Carbon is created in the upper atmosphere as nitrogen atoms are bombarded by cosmic radiation. For every one trillion carbon atoms, you will find one carbon atoms. The carbon that results from the reaction caused by cosmic radiation quickly changes to carbon dioxide, just like normal carbon would. The carbon dioxide is utilized by plants in the same way normal carbon dioxide is. This carbon dioxide then ends up in humans and other animals as it moves up the food chain.

There is then a ratio of carbon to carbon in the bodies of plants, humans, and other animals that can fluctuate, but will be fixed at the time of death.

How accurate are Carbon-14 and other radioactive dating methods?

Special beta-decay processes In addition to the above types of radioactivity, there is a special class of rare beta-decay processes that gives rise to heavy-particle emission. In these processes the beta decay partly goes to a high excited state of the daughter nucleus, and this state rapidly emits a heavy particle. One such process is beta-delayed neutron emission, which is exemplified by the following reaction: There is a small production of delayed neutron emitters following nuclear fission, and these radioactivities are especially important in providing a reasonable response time to allow control of nuclear fission reactors by mechanically moved control rods.

Among the positron emitters in the light-element region, a number beta decay partly to excited states that are unstable with respect to emission of an alpha particle. Thus, these species exhibit alpha radiation with the half-life of the beta emission.

Milne and his associates invented the first accurate seismographs, including the instrument later known as the Milne seismograph.

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. Analyzing specimens whose relative geologic ages were known, Boltwood found that the ratio of lead to uranium did indeed increase with age.

After estimating the rate of this radioactive change, he calculated that the absolute ages of his specimens ranged from million to 2. Though his figures were too high by about 20 percent, their order of magnitude was enough to dispose of the short scale of geologic time proposed by Lord Kelvin. Versions of the modern mass spectrometer were invented in the early s and s, and during World War II the device was improved substantially to help in the development of the atomic bomb.

Soon after the war, Harold C.

U-238 Istopic Decay Series