How Old is Earth, and How Do We Know?

How Old is Earth, and How Do We Know?

Philip J. The American Biology Teacher 1 February ; 82 2 : 72— The recent discovery of radiocarbon in dinosaur bones at first seems incompatible with an age of millions of years, due to the short half-life of radiocarbon. However, evidence from isotopes other than radiocarbon shows that dinosaur fossils are indeed millions of years old. Fossil bone incorporates new radiocarbon by means of recrystallization and, in some cases, bacterial activity and uranium decay. Because of this, bone mineral — fossil or otherwise — is a material that cannot yield an accurate radiocarbon date except under extraordinary circumstances. Science educators need to be aware of the details of these phenomena, to be able to advise students whose acceptance of biological evolution has been challenged by young-Earth creationist arguments that are based on radiocarbon in dinosaur fossils. The recent discovery of radiocarbon in dinosaur fossils has the potential to generate much puzzlement, because radiocarbon has a half-life too short for measurable amounts of original radiocarbon to remain in fossils that are millions of years old. Many of the other dinosaur-based anti-evolution arguments from YEC authors are less worrisome, because they are plainly absurd e. That is because students and science educators often lack knowledge of the finer details of radiocarbon dating and the fossilization process that show how radiocarbon in dinosaur bones is consistent with an age of millions of years.

Age of Earth

As we learned in the previous lesson, index fossils and superposition are effective methods of determining the relative age of objects. In other words, you can use superposition to tell you that one rock layer is older than another. To accomplish this, scientists use a variety of evidence, from tree rings to the amounts of radioactive materials in a rock.

In regions outside the tropics, trees grow more quickly during the warm summer months than during the cooler winter. Each dark band represents a winter; by counting rings it is possible to find the age of the tree Figure

Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements (radiometric dating), some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while.

The following radioactive decay processes have proven particularly useful in radioactive dating for geologic processes:. Note that uranium and uranium give rise to two of the natural radioactive series , but rubidium and potassium do not give rise to series. They each stop with a single daughter product which is stable. Some of the decays which are useful for dating, with their half-lives and decay constants are:.

The half-life is for the parent isotope and so includes both decays. Some decays with shorter half-lives are also useful. Of these, the 14 C is unique and used in carbon dating. Note that the decay constant scale in the table below was kept the same as the table above for comparison. Parent isotope radioactive Daughter isotope stable Half-life y Decay constant 10 yr -1 10 Be 10 B 1.

Of those isotopes, are stable and 70 are radioactive. Eighteen of the radioactive elements have long enough half-lives to have survived since the beginning of the solar system. The table above includes the main isotopes used for age studies. The natural radioactive series which involve lead as a daughter element do offer a mechanism to test the assumptions.

How is Earth’s Age Calculated?

How do scientists find the age of planets date samples or planetary time relative age and absolute age? If carbon is so short-lived in comparison to potassium or uranium, why is it that in terms of the media, we mostly about carbon and rarely the others? Are carbon isotopes used for age measurement of meteorite samples? We hear a lot of time estimates, X hundred millions, X million years, etc.

Lead isochrons are also an important radioactive dating process. Note that This data is reproduced from Dalrymple, The Age of the Earth. * Note that 40K also for dating. The half-life is for the parent isotope and so includes both decays.

Here I want to concentrate on another source of error, namely, processes that take place within magma chambers. To me it has been a real eye opener to see all the processes that are taking place and their potential influence on radiometric dating. Radiometric dating is largely done on rock that has formed from solidified lava. Lava properly called magma before it erupts fills large underground chambers called magma chambers.

Most people are not aware of the many processes that take place in lava before it erupts and as it solidifies, processes that can have a tremendous influence on daughter to parent ratios. Such processes can cause the daughter product to be enriched relative to the parent, which would make the rock look older, or cause the parent to be enriched relative to the daughter, which would make the rock look younger.

This calls the whole radiometric dating scheme into serious question. Geologists assert that older dates are found deeper down in the geologic column, which they take as evidence that radiometric dating is giving true ages, since it is apparent that rocks that are deeper must be older. But even if it is true that older radiometric dates are found lower down in the geologic column, which is open to question, this can potentially be explained by processes occurring in magma chambers which cause the lava erupting earlier to appear older than the lava erupting later.

Lava erupting earlier would come from the top of the magma chamber, and lava erupting later would come from lower down. A number of processes could cause the parent substance to be depleted at the top of the magma chamber, or the daughter product to be enriched, both of which would cause the lava erupting earlier to appear very old according to radiometric dating, and lava erupting later to appear younger.

The general idea is that many different minerals are formed, which differ from one another in composition, even though they come from the same magma. The mineral makeup of an igneous rock is ultimately determined by the chemical composition of the magma from which it crystallized. Such a large variety of igneous rocks exists that it is logical to assume an equally large variety of magmas must also exist.

Dating Rocks and Fossils Using Geologic Methods

When asked for your age, it’s likely you won’t slip with the exception of a recent birthday mistake. But for the sprawling sphere we call home, age is a much trickier matter. Before so-called radiometric dating, Earth’s age was anybody’s guess.

Estimating the age of rocks and fossils helps tell the story of Earth’s past. Vocabulary. • absolute dating. • radioactive decay. • radiometric dating. • half-life.

September 30, by Beth Geiger. Dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1, years old. How do scientists actually know these ages? Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own. In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do. There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.

Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you. Absolute age dating is like saying you are 15 years old and your grandfather is 77 years old. To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones.

This is called the Rule of Superposition. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point. Relative age dating also means paying attention to crosscutting relationships. Say for example that a volcanic dike, or a fault, cuts across several sedimentary layers, or maybe through another volcanic rock type.

The Age of the Earth

You may have heard that the Earth is 4. This was calculated by taking precise measurements of things in the dirt and in meteorites and using the principles of radioactive decay to determine an age. This page will show you how that was done.

These are isotopes produced as a result of the bombardment of the Earth by high​-energy gamma or cosmic rays. Age Dating by Radioactive Isotopes.

The Earth is 4,54 billion years old. This age has been determined with the radioactive dating technique. The precise decay rate of radioactive elements is used as a clock: the number of daughter products in one rock indicates its age. The oldest meteorites ever dated in the Solar System are 4,56 billion years old, the oldest minerals on Earth are 4,4 billion years old, and the oldest rocks on Earth are 4 billion years old. These ages are very consistent because the meteorites had to form before the accretion of our planet, and the Earth had to cool down before the first minerals could crystallise.

The Solar System was formed around 4. Dating meteorites thus allows us to give a lower age to the Solar System 4,56 billion years old. Lead isotope isochron that Clair Patterson used to determine the age of the solar system and Earth Patterson, C. The animation shows progressive growth over million years Myr of the lead isotope ratios for two stony meteorites Nuevo Laredo and Forest City from initial lead isotope ratios matching those of the Canyon Diablo iron meteorite.

Clocks in the Rocks

Means of determining the age of certain materials by reference to the relative abundances of the parent isotope which is radioactive and the daughter isotope which may or may not be radioactive. If the decay constant the half-life or disintegration rate of the parent isotope and the concentration of the daughter isotope are known, it is possible to calculate an age. See also dating methods; radioactive decay; radiocarbon dating; and radiometric dating.

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Radiometric dating, radioactive dating or radioisotope dating is a technique which is used to The age that can be calculated by radiometric dating is thus the time at which the rock or mineral cooled to closure temperature. was invented by Ernest Rutherford as a method by which one might determine the age of the Earth.

Lead isotopes are commonly used in dating rocks and provide some of the best evidence for the Earth’s age. In order to be used as a natural clock to calculate the age of the earth, the processes generating lead isotopes must meet the four conditions of a natural clock: an irreversible process, a uniform rate, an initial condition, and a final condition. Dalrymple cites examples of lead isotope dating that give an age for the earth of about 4. Lead isotopes are important because two different lead isotopes Pb and Pb are produced from the decay series of two different uranium isotopes U and U.

Since both decay series contain a unique set of intermediate radioactive isotopes, and because each has its own half-life, independent age calculations can be made from each Dalrymple The presence of a stable lead isotope that is not the product of any decay series Pb allows lead isotopes to be normalized, allowing for the use of isochrons and concordia-discordia diagrams as dating tools. Two other characteristics of lead isotope measurements make it superior to other methods. First, measuring the isotope ratio of a single element can be done much more precisely than measuring isotope ratios of two differing elements.

Second, using two isotopes of the same element makes the sample immune to chemical fractionation during a post-crystallization disturbance Dalrymple

About Isotopic Dating: Yardsticks for Geologic Time

Many independent measurements have established that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old. Geologists have found annual layers in ice that are easily counted to multiple tens of thousands of years, and when combined with radio isotope dating, we find hundreds of thousands of years of ice layers. Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements radiometric dating , some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while the oldest solar system rocks are dated at 4.

Age of rock layers established using radiometric dating. Scientists measure the ages of rock layers on Earth using radiometric dating.

You’ve got two decay products, lead and helium, and they’re giving two different ages for the zircon. For this reason, ICR research has long focused on the science behind these dating techniques. These observations give us confidence that radiometric dating is not trustworthy. Research has even identified precisely where radioisotope dating went wrong. See the articles below for more information on the pitfalls of these dating methods. Radioactive isotopes are commonly portrayed as providing rock-solid evidence that the earth is billions of years old.

Since such isotopes are thought to decay at consistent rates over time, the assumption is that simple measurements can lead to reliable ages. But new discoveries of rate fluctuations continue to challenge the reliability of radioisotope decay rates in general—and thus, the reliability of vast ages seemingly derived from radioisotope dating. The discovery of fresh blood in a spectacular mosquito fossil strongly contradicts its own “scientific” age assignment of 46 million years.

What dating method did scientists use, and did it really generate reliable results? For about a century, radioactive decay rates have been heralded as steady and stable processes that can be reliably used to help measure how old rocks are. They helped underpin belief in vast ages and had largely gone unchallenged.

200 #18 – Absolute radiometric age dating of rocks and geologic materials


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