Concept of radiometric dating

PART 1: Back to Basics PART 2: Problems with the Assumptions PART 3: Making Sense of the Patterns This three-part series will help you properly understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates, and the clues about what really happened in the past.Most people think that radioactive dating has proven the earth is billions of years old.Yet this view is based on a misunderstanding of how radiometric dating works.Part 1 (in the previous issue) explained how scientists observe unstable atoms changing into stable atoms in the present.Based on these observations and the known rate of radioactive decay, they estimate the time it has taken for the daughter isotope to accumulate in the rock.

New evidence, however, has recently been discovered that can only be explained by the radioactive decay rates not having been constant in the past.9 For example, the radioactive decay of uranium in tiny crystals in a New Mexico granite ( yields a uranium-lead “age” of 1.5 billion years.6 The problems with contamination, as with inheritance, are already well-documented in the textbooks on radioactive dating of rocks.7 Unlike the hourglass, where its two bowls are sealed, the radioactive “clock” in rocks is open to contamination by gain or loss of parent or daughter isotopes because of waters flowing in the ground from rainfall and from the molten rocks beneath volcanoes.Similarly, as molten lava rises through a conduit from deep inside the earth to be erupted through a volcano, pieces of the conduit wallrocks and their isotopes can mix into the lava and contaminate it.The rate of uranium decay must have been at least 250,000 times faster than today’s measured rate! As this article has illustrated, rocks may have inherited parent and daughter isotopes from their sources, or they may have been contaminated when they moved through other rocks to their current locations.Or inflowing water may have mixed isotopes into the rocks.

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