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06-May-2017 07:05

As someone who has studied radioactivity in detail, I have always been a bit amused by the assertion that radioactive dating is a precise way to determine the age of an object.

This false notion is often promoted when radioactive dates are listed with utterly unrealistic error bars.

Since a neutron has no charge, it must become positively charged after emitting an electron. Of course, there are all sorts of uncertainties involved.

How much Sr-87 was in the rock when it first formed?

Such uncertainties are usually glossed over, especially when radioactive dates are communicated to the public and, more importantly, to students.

Generally, we are told that scientists have ways to analyze the object they are dating so as to eliminate the uncertainties due to unknown processes that occurred in the past. Hayes has pointed out a problem with isochrons that has, until now, not been considered.

Their age was measured to be 6.0 /- 0.3 billion years old. Those who are committed to an ancient age for the earth currently believe that it is 4.6 billion years old.

Obviously, then, the error in that measurement is 1.4 billion years, not 0.3 billion years!

Essentially, rather than looking at the amounts of Rb-87 and Sr-87, we look at their compared to Sr-86.If those rocks really have been sitting around on the moon for billions of years, I suspect that the the wide range of physical and chemical processes which occurred over that time period had a much more profound effect on the uncertainty of the age determination.This is best illustrated by the radioactive age of a sample of diamonds from Zaire.However, it’s important to note that some radioactive dates (like those that come from carbon-14) don’t use the isochron method, so they aren’t affected by this particular flaw.



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