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Radiometric dating is a much misunderstood phenomenon. Evolutionists often misunderstand the method, assuming it gives a definite age for tested samples. Creationists also often misunderstand it, claiming that the process is inaccurate. Perhaps a good place to start this article would be to affirm that radiometric dating is not inaccurate. It is certainly incorrect, and it is certainly based on wrong assumptions, but it is not inaccurate. What do I mean?

One of the elements that can stand in chemically for zircon is uranium.

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Uranium eventually decays into lead, and lead does not normally occur in zircon, except as the radioactive decay product of uranium. Therefore, by measuring the ratio of lead to uranium in a crystal of zircon, you can tell how much uranium there originally was in the crystal, which, combined with knowing the radioactive half-life of uranium, tells you how old the crystal is.

Obviously, if the substance you are measuring is contaminated, then all you know is the age since contamination, or worse, you don't know anything, because the contamination might be in the opposite direction - suppose, for example, you're looking at radio carbon carbon 14, which is produced in the atmosphere by cosmic rays, and which decays into nitrogen.

Since you are exposed to the atmosphere and contain carbon, if you get oils from your skin onto an archeological artifact, then attempting to date it using radio carbon will fail because you are measuring the age of the oils on your skin, not the age of the artifact. This is why crystals are good for radiometric dating: the atoms in a crystal are extremely efficiently packed, and it's very difficult to get anything into a crystal such as a contaminant by any means short of destroying the crystal and re-growing it anew.

The oldest crystals on Earth that were formed on Earth are zircon crystals, and are approximately 4. Asteroids in the solar system have been clocked at 4. We assume that the Earth is probably as old as the asteroids, because we believe the solar system to have formed from a collapsing nebula, and that the Earth, being geologically active, has simply destroyed any older zircon crystals that would be its true age, but we can't really be certain.

The building blocks that the Earth is made of, the asteroids are 4. Based on astronomical models of how stars work, we also believe the Sun to be about 4.

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Radiometric dating is a widely accepted technique that measures the rate of decay of naturally occurring elements that have been incorporated into rocks and fossils.

Every element is defined by the particular number of protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up it's atoms. Sometimes, the number of neutrons within the atom is off. These atoms, with an odd number of neutrons, are called isotopes.

Because they do not have the ideal number of neutrons, the isotopes are unstable and over time they will convert into more stable atoms. Scientists can measure the ratio of the parent isotopes compared to the converted isotopes. The rate of isotope decay is very consistent, and is not effected by environmental changes like heat, temperature, and pressure.

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This makes radiometric dating quite reliable. However, there are some factors that must be accounted for. For example, sometimes it is possible for a small amount of new "parent" isotopes to be incorporated into the object, skewing the ratio.

Radiometric Dating - Is It Accurate?

This is understood and can be corrected for. Carbon is the most commonly used isotope for dating organic material plants, animals. Plants and animals continually take in carbon during their lifespan.

When they die, they no longer acquire carbon and so we can measure the decay of the isotope to determine when the plant or animal died. Because carbon decays relatively rapidly compared to other isotopes, it can only be used to date things that are less than 60, years old. Anything older would have so little carbon left that you couldn't accurately measure it.

For example, if element Aa had a half-life of 1 day and we had 1, lbs. By observing how fast U decays into lead, we can calculate the half-life of U This is a theoretical calculation, and we can therefore determine that the half-life of U is 4. Remember that the half-life is a statistical measure. Granting that U has a half-life of 4. A very common rock that contains U is granite.

If we look at some of the very small zircon crystals in granite, we can accurately measure how much U and Pb the crystal contains. In order to calculate the age of the rock, we need three other pieces of information:.

Using the above assumptions, it is calculated that the zircon crystals have an age of about 1. The radioactive decay process above can be seen to produce 8 alpha-particles for each one atom of U The rate of diffusion of helium from a zircon crustal can be measured. It turns out that this rate of diffusion of helium is compatible with the crystals being about 5, years old, not 1. Although assumptions 2 and 3 are not provable, they actually seem very likely in this particular example.

Therefore, it seems that the first assumption must be wrong 1. Remember that we have already said that these experimenters are highly skilled. It is therefore unlikely that the laboratory technicians have made a mistake in their measurements of U or Pb The only possible conclusion, therefore, is that the half-life of U has not been constant throughout the lifetime of the granite and its zircon crystals. Other radiometric dating methods are based on similar assumptions.

If the assumptions cannot be trusted, then the calculations based on them are unsound. It is for this reason that creationists question radiometric dating methods and do not accept their results. 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 [35] 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. A 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.

This is understood and can be corrected for. Also, techniques such as taking samples from multiple sections and dating with multiple isotopes, will help crosscheck/confirm the accuracy of the date. Carbon is the most commonly used isotope for . Oct 01, Radiometric dating is often used to "prove" rocks are millions of years old. Once you understand the basic science, however, you can see how wrong assumptions lead to incorrect dates. This three-part series will help you properly understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates, and the clues about what really Author: Dr. Andrew A. Snelling. Jan 23, Uranium-lead radioisotope dating is now the preferred absolute dating method among geochronologists. Consequently, the scientific community and the general public around the world appear convinced of the earth's claimed great antiquity. But there are several problems with this particular radiometric dating Troy Lacey.

Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Brent The age of the earth. Stanford, Calif. Radiogenic isotope geology 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.

Radioisotope dating accuracy

Principles and applications of geochemistry: a comprehensive textbook for geology students 2nd ed. Using geochemical data: evaluation, presentation, interpretation. Harlow : Longman. Cornell University. United States Geological Survey. Kramers June Hanson; M.

Martin; S. Bowring; H. Jelsma; P. Dirks Journal of African Earth Sciences. Bibcode : JAfES.

No "Age-Meter"

Precambrian Research. Bibcode : PreR.

How Does Radiometric Dating Work? - Ars Technica

Vetter; Donald W. Davis Chemical Geology.

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Bibcode : ChGeo. South African Journal of Geology. Wilson; R. Carlson December In situ Rb-Sr dating of slickenfibres in deep crystalline basement faults. Sci Rep 10, The Swedish National Heritage Board.

Radiometric dating is a much misunderstood phenomenon. Evolutionists often misunderstand the method, assuming it gives a definite age for tested samples. Creationists also often misunderstand it, claiming that the process is inaccurate. Perhaps a good place to start this article would be to affirm that radiometric dating is not inaccurate.

Archived from the original on 31 March Retrieved 9 March Dergachev Annales Geophysicae. Bibcode : AnGeo. Retrieved 6 April Thomas August


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