Creationists also attack radioactive dating with the argument that half-lives were different in the past than they are at present. There is no more reason to believe that than to believe that at some time in the past iron did not rust and wood did not burn. Furthermore, astronomical data show that radioactive half-lives in elements in stars billions of light years away is the same as presently measured. On pages and of The Genesis Flood, creationist authors Whitcomb and Morris present an argument to try to convince the reader that ages of mineral specimens determined by radioactivity measurements are much greater than the "true" i.
The mathematical procedures employed are totally inconsistent with reality. Henry Morris has a PhD in Hydraulic Engineering, so it would seem that he would know better than to author such nonsense. Apparently, he did know better, because he qualifies the exposition in a footnote stating:.
This discussion is not meant to be an exact exposition of radiogenic age computation; the relation is mathematically more complicated than the direct proportion assumed for the illustration. Nevertheless, the principles described are substantially applicable to the actual relationship.
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Morris states that the production rate of an element formed by radioactive decay is constant with time. This is not true, although for a short period of time compared to the length of the half life the change in production rate may be very small. Radioactive elements decay by half-lives. At the end of the first half life, only half of the radioactive element remains, and therefore the production rate of the element formed by radioactive decay will be only half of what it was at the beginning.
The authors state on p. If these elements existed also as the result of direct creation, it is reasonable to assume that they existed in these same proportions. Say, then, that their initial amounts are represented by quantities of A and cA respectively. Morris makes a number of unsupported assumptions: This is not correct; radioactive elements decay by half lives, as explained in the first paragraphs of this post.
There is absolutely no evidence to support this assumption, and a great deal of evidence that electromagnetic radiation does not affect the rate of decay of terrestrial radioactive elements. He sums it up with the equations: He then calculates an "age" for the first element by dividing its quantity by its decay rate, R; and an "age" for the second element by dividing its quantity by its decay rate, cR.
It's obvious from the above two equations that the result shows the same age for both elements, which is: Of course, the mathematics are completely wrong. The correct relation can obtained by rearranging the equation given at the beginning of this post: For a half life of years, the following table shows the fraction remaining for various time periods:. By way of contrast, the following table displays the incorrect values calculated on the basis of the Morris straight line relationship: In all his mathematics, R is taken as a constant value.
We may therefore set R as equal to the initial rate in the above table:.
Calculating, using the Morris equation: Morris' equations would indicate that after years the amount of parent element would be completely gone, but the daughter element would nevertheless continue to be formed! Click on the web site of Dr. Roger Wiens of Cal Tech for a detailed analysis of the accuracy of radioactive dating. Additional information is also available in talk. Principles of Radiometric Dating.
Radioactive decay is described in terms of the probability that a constituent particle of the nucleus of an atom will escape through the potential Energy barrier which bonds them to the nucleus.
The energies involved are so large, and the nucleus is so small that physical conditions in the Earth i. T and P cannot affect the rate of decay. The rate of decay or rate of change of the number N of particles is proportional to the number present at any time, i. So, we can write. After the passage of two half-lives only 0. This can only be done for 14 C, since we know N 0 from the atmospheric ratio, assumed to be constant through time.
For other systems we have to proceed further. The only problem is that we only know the number of daughter atoms now present, and some of those may have been present prior to the start of our clock. We can see how do deal with this if we take a particular case. The neutron emits an electron to become a proton. We still don't know 87 Sr 0 , the amount of 87 Sr daughter element initially present. Thus, 86 Sr is a stable isotope, and the amount of 86 Sr does not change through time.
So, applying this simplification,. The reason for this is that Rb has become distributed unequally through the Earth over time. For example the amount of Rb in mantle rocks is generally low, i. Thus we could tell whether the rock was derived from the mantle or crust be determining its initial Sr isotopic ratio as we discussed previously in the section on igneous rocks. Two isotopes of Uranium and one isotope of Th are radioactive and decay to produce various isotopes of Pb.
The decay schemes are as follows. Note that the present ratio of. If these two independent dates are the same, we say they are concordant.
We can also construct a Concordia diagram, which shows the values of Pb isotopes that would give concordant dates. The Concordia curve can be calculated by defining the following:. Zircon has a high hardness 7. Zircon can also survive metamorphism. Chemically, zircon usually contains high amounts of U and low amounts of Pb, so that large amounts of radiogenic Pb are produced. Other minerals that also show these properties, but are less commonly used in radiometric dating are Apatite and sphene.
Discordant dates will not fall on the Concordia curve. Sometimes, however, numerous discordant dates from the same rock will plot along a line representing a chord on the Concordia diagram.
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Such a chord is called a discordia. We can also define what are called Pb-Pb Isochrons by combining the two isochron equations 7 and 8. Since we know that the , and assuming that the Pb and Pb dates are the same, then equation 11 is the equation for a family of lines that have a slope. The answer is about 6 billion years. This argument tells when the elements were formed that make up the Earth, but does not really give us the age of the Earth.
It does, however, give a maximum age of the Earth. Is this the age of the Earth? Lunar rocks also lie on the Geochron, at least suggesting that the moon formed at the same time as meteorites. Modern Oceanic Pb - i. Pb separated from continents and thus from average crust also plots on the Geochron, and thus suggests that the Earth formed at the same time as the meteorites and moon. Thus, our best estimate of the age of the Earth is 4.
That is, at some point in time, an atom of such a nuclide will undergo radioactive decay and spontaneously transform into a different nuclide. This transformation may be accomplished in a number of different ways, including alpha decay emission of alpha particles and beta decay electron emission, positron emission, or electron capture. Another possibility is spontaneous fission into two or more nuclides.
While the moment in time at which a particular nucleus decays is unpredictable, a collection of atoms of a radioactive nuclide decays exponentially at a rate described by a parameter known as the half-life , usually given in units of years when discussing dating techniques. After one half-life has elapsed, one half of the atoms of the nuclide in question will have decayed into a "daughter" nuclide or decay product. In many cases, the daughter nuclide itself is radioactive, resulting in a decay chain , eventually ending with the formation of a stable nonradioactive daughter nuclide; each step in such a chain is characterized by a distinct half-life.
In these cases, usually the half-life of interest in radiometric dating is the longest one in the chain, which is the rate-limiting factor in the ultimate transformation of the radioactive nuclide into its stable daughter.
Isotopic systems that have been exploited for radiometric dating have half-lives ranging from only about 10 years e. For most radioactive nuclides, the half-life depends solely on nuclear properties and is essentially a constant. It is not affected by external factors such as temperature , pressure , chemical environment, or presence of a magnetic or electric field.