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The age of fossils can be determined using stratigraphy, biostratigraphy, and radiocarbon dating. Paleontology seeks to map out how life evolved across geologic time. A substantial hurdle is the difficulty of working out fossil ages. There are several different methods for estimating the ages of fossils, including:. Paleontologists rely on stratigraphy to date fossils. Stratigraphy is the science of understanding the strata, or layers, that form the sedimentary record.

The normal molar mass of Carbon is around 12, however there are a few Carbon atoms that have a molar mass of about 13, and even fewer that have a molar mass of about These atoms have one or two more neutrons in the nucleus than most Carbon atoms. Scientists call the isotope with molar mass around 14, Carbon Carbon is manufactured in the upper atmosphere by the action of cosmic rays. It turns out to be radioactive and decays over time. All organic material has decaying Carbon in it.

However, plants and animals that are still alive constantly replace the supply of carbon in their systems and so the amount of Carbon in the system stays almost constant.

Once a plant or animal dies the Carbon is no longer being regenerated and so the Carbon starts to decay. In this way, by measuring the amount of Carbon in the body of a prehistoric animal or plant, a scientist can deduce when the plant or animal died. All radioactive materials have a half-life. If you have a certain amount of a radioactive material, its half-life is the time it takes for half of the material you started out with to decay. Carbon decays back into nitrogen.

This is a first order reaction equation and the rate at which it the reaction proceeds over time can be modeled by the equations:. A reaction with a large rate constant has a short half-life. Willard F. Libby Was the man who first developed the idea and procedure for Carbon dating. He measured the half-life of Carbon to be about 5, years. However after about 50, years there is so little Carbon left in the specimen that it is very hard, almost impossible, to calculate its age.

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Van Der Merwe Libby ran many tests on items where the age was known, or estimated by other means. His test results came rather close, to within plus or minus a few hundred years.

In the laboratory, samples must be processed and cleaned so that there is no material on them that might throw off the age reading. Then the sample is burned and passes through a completely sterile vacuum system as Carbon dioxide gas.

Scientists use Carbon dating for telling the age of an old object, whose origin and age cannot be determined exactly by normal means. Because of this method Chemistry has become intertwined with History, Archeology, Anthropology, and Geology. (Poole) Many items that have been thought to come from one time have been tested and found out to. The most widely known form of radiometric dating is carbon keitaiplus.com is what archaeologists use to determine the age of human-made artifacts. But carbon dating won't work on dinosaur bones. The half-life of carbon is only 5, years, so carbon dating is only effective on samples that are less than 50, years old. Nov 19,   Scientists use carbon dating when determining the age of fossils that are less than 60, years old, and that are composed of organic materials such as wood or leather. Key Terms. half-life: The time required for half of the nuclei in a sample of a specific isotope to undergo radioactive decay.

The gas is then subjected to more purifying procedures. Afterward the gas is stored in a tube insulated by Mercury and Lead, so as to minimize the chances of the sample being affected by radiations from the atmosphere. When a Carbon atom disintegrates fine instruments detect the action, a light flashes on a control panel, and a counter records the number of decaying atoms.

Carbon dating, method of age determination that depends upon the decay to nitrogen of radiocarbon (carbon). Carbon is continually formed in nature by the interaction of neutrons with nitrogen in the Earth's atmosphere. Learn more about carbon dating in this article. In this article, we will examine the methods by which scientists use radioactivity to determine the age of objects, most notably carbon dating. Advertisement Carbon dating is a way of determining the age of certain archeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50, years old. Scientists check the accuracy of carbon dating by comparing carbon dating data to data from other dating methods. Other methods scientists use include counting rock layers and tree rings. When scientists first began to compare carbon dating data to data from tree rings, they found carbon dating provided "too-young" estimates of artifact age.

By this method the scientist can keep track of how many atoms are decomposing per minute and per second. This sounds great! We are now ably to date anything we want, even that something at the back of the fridge, and know how old it is within a few hundred years, but are there any problems with the Carbon dating method?

Unfortunately there are.

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In order to know how long a sample of radioactive material had been decomposing we need three variables defined, how much of the sample we have left now, what the half-life of the sample is, and how much of the sample we started out with.

For Carbon dating we have already experimentally measured the amount of Carbon left, and Libby has already measured the half-life of Carbon to an acceptable exactness, however how much Carbon was there in the specimen at the time of death.

The amount of Carbon in an organic body is constant with the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere. Thus specimens have the same amount of carbon in them as the rest of the atmosphere at the time that the specimen lived.

However, if we could measure the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere when they lived, we would be living during the time and there would be no reason for dating. We know for a fact that the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere has not stayed the same in the past century. A recent proof of that would be the Industrial revolution.

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Factories put out massive amounts of Carbon, and during that time the concentration of Carbon in the atmosphere increased significantly.

Fortunately, Libby was a smart guy and accounted for this discrepancy. He measured the amount of Carbon in the inner layers of trees that were older than the Industrial revolution. He was able to calculate the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere, before the industrial revolution, and adjust his equation accordingly.

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However, Libby then assumed that the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere was relatively constant for a very long time up until the Industrial revolution. Can this be assumed to be correct? In the atmosphere the amount of Carbon decaying over time increases with the greater concentration of Carbon in the atmosphere. Eventually the reaction would reach some equilibrium and the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere would remain constant.

Scientists have calculated that the amount Carbon in the atmosphere would become stable after 30, years from the beginning of the reaction.

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The reaction must have started when the Earth was formed, and thus the reaction would reach equilibrium after the Earth was 30, years old. Scientists have assumed that the Earth is many millions of years old, however, no one was living when the earth was formed, and no one has concrete proof as to when the Earth was formed and therefore no one can say exactly how old it is. Today the rate of production of Carbon is greater than the rate of disintegration. However, age is not a substance that can be measured by scientific equipment.

The former quantities are physical properties that can be directly measured using the right equipment. But age is not a physical property. It is conceptual. Age is the concept of the amount of time an object has existed. It is the present time minus the time at which the object came into existence. The only way that this can be known scientifically is if a person observed the time of creation. This may seem like a trivial or obvious point.

But it is a very important one. Instead, it would be far more accurate to say that scientists attempt to estimate the age of something.

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This is an important distinction because a measurement is direct, objective, repeatable, and relatively independent of starting assumptions. An estimateon the other hand, is indirect and highly dependent on starting assumptions. Sometimes deep time advocates ignore this important distinction. Of course, there is nothing wrong at all with attempting to estimate the age of something.

We simply need to remember that such estimates are not nearly as direct or objective as a measurement of something like mass or length - measurements that are directly repeatable in the present. And, as we will find below, age estimates are highly dependent upon starting assumptions.

Radiometric dating / Carbon dating

Since age cannot be measured, how is it estimated? This is done by measuring a proxy and performing a calculation. In science, a proxy is something that substitutes for something else and correlates with it. As one example, age is not a substance that accumulates over time, but dust is. The amount of dust can serve as a proxy for the amount of time since a room was last cleaned.

Though age cannot be measured, the depth of dust can be measured. The estimated age is then computed based on the measured dust.

In order for this kind of estimate to work, certain assumptions must be used. One set of assumptions concerns the initial conditions. These are assumptions about the state of the system when it first started. In the case of estimating the time since a room was last cleaned by measuring dust, we might reasonably assume that the room had zero dust at the time of its cleaning.

Another assumption concerns the rate of change of our proxy. In this case, we must know something about the rate at which dust accumulates.

Oct 27,   Carbon Dating. For whatever reason, many people have the false impression that carbon dating is what secular scientists use to estimate the age of earth rocks at billions of years. It isn't. Carbon dating is not used on rocks, because rocks do not have much carbon in them. Nov 20,   Radiocarbon dating involves determining the age of an ancient fossil or specimen by measuring its carbon content. Carbon, or radiocarbon, is a Author: Ben Mauk. Mar 18,   Carbon dating is a window into the past that has revolutionized our understanding of earth science, human anthropology, and archaeology, and is arguably the most exciting science technique used by non-scientists. So put on your science goggles and jump into the world of carbon dating!

Often the rate can be measured in the present. We might measure the amount of dust at one time, and then measure it again a week later.

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We might find that dust accumulates at one millimeter per week. But we must still make an assumption about the rate at which dust accumulated in the past. Perhaps dust always accumulates at the same rate it does today.

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But it is difficult to know for certain; hence, this remains an assumption. In the case of our hypothetical example, we might assume that no one has gone into the room and added dust, or blown dust away using a fan.

The assumptions of initial conditions, rates, and closed-ness of the system are involved in all scientific attempts to estimate age of just about anything whose origin was not observed.

Suppose a room has 5 millimeters of dust on its surfaces. If dust accumulates at one millimeter per week and always has, if no one has disturbed the room, and if the room started with zero dust at the time of its cleaning, we can reasonably estimate the time since the last cleaning as five weeks.

Our estimate will be as good as our assumptions. If any of the assumptions is wrong, so will our age estimate be wrong.

The problem with scientific attempts to estimate age is that it is rarely possible to know with any certainty that our starting assumptions are right. In radiometric dating, the measured ratio of certain radioactive elements is used as a proxy for age. Radioactive elements are atoms that are unstable; they spontaneously change into other types of atoms.

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For example, potassium is radioactive. The number 40 refers to the sum of protons 19 and neutrons 21 in the potassium nucleus. Most potassium atoms on earth are potassium because they have 20 neutrons. Potassium and potassium are isotopes - elements with the same number of protons in the nucleus, but different numbers of neutrons.

Potassium is stable, meaning it is not radioactive and will remain potassium indefinitely. No external force is necessary. The conversion happens naturally over time. The time at which a given potassium atom converts to argon atom cannot be predicted in advance. It is apparently random. However, when a sufficiently large number of potassium atoms is counted, the rate at which they convert to argon is very consistent. Think of it like popcorn in the microwave. You cannot predict when a given kernel will pop, or which kernels will pop before other kernels.

But the rate of a large group of them is such at after 1. This number has been extrapolated from the much smaller fraction that converts in observed time frames. Different radioactive elements have different half-lives. The potassium half-life is 1. But the half-life for uranium is about 4. The carbon half-life is only years.

Cesium has a half-life of 30 years, and oxygen has a half-life of only The answer has to do with the exponential nature of radioactive decay. The rate at which a radioactive substance decays in terms of the number of atoms per second that decay is proportional to the amount of substance.

So after one half-life, half of the substance will remain. After another half-life, one fourth of the original substance will remain. Another half-life reduces the amount to one-eighth, then one-sixteenth and so on. The substance never quite vanishes completely, until we get down to one atom, which decays after a random time. Since the rate at which various radioactive substances decay has been measured and is well known for many substances, it is tempting to use the amounts of these substances as a proxy for the age of a volcanic rock.

After 1. So, if you happened to find a rock with 1 microgram of potassium and a small amount of argon, would you conclude that the rock is 1.

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If so, what assumptions have you made? In the previous hypothetical example, one assumption is that all the argon was produced from the radioactive decay of potassium But is this really known? How do you know for certain that the rock was not made last Thursday, already containing significant amounts of argon and with only 1 microgram of potassium?

In a laboratory, it is possible to make a rock with virtually any composition. Ultimately, we cannot know. But there is a seemingly good reason to think that virtually all the argon contained within a rock is indeed the product of radioactive decay.

Volcanic rocks are formed when the lava or magma cools and hardens. But argon is a gas. Since lava is a liquid, any argon gas should easily flow upward through it and escape. Thus, when the rock first forms, it should have virtually no argon gas within it.

But as potassium decays, the argon content will increase, and presumably remain trapped inside the now-solid rock. So, by comparing the argon to potassium ratio in a volcanic rock, we should be able to estimate the time since the rock formed. This is called a model-age method. In this type of method, we have good theoretical reasons to assume at least one of the initial conditions of the rock. The initial amount of argon when the rock has first hardened should be close to zero.

Yet we know that this assumption is not always true. We know this because we have tested the potassium-argon method on recent rocks whose age is historically known. That is, brand new rocks that formed from recent volcanic eruptions such as Mt. Helens have been age-dated using the potassium-argon method. Their estimated ages were reported as hundreds of thousands of years based on the argon content, even though the true age was less than 10 years.

Since the method has been shown to fail on rocks whose age is known, would it make sense to trust the method on rocks of unknown age?

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But many secular scientists continue to trust the potassium-argon model-age method on rocks of unknown age. If so, then their true ages are much less than their radiometric age estimates. The age estimate could be wrong by a factor of hundreds of thousands.

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But how would you know? We must also note that rocks are not completely solid, but porous. And gas can indeed move through rocks, albeit rather slowly.

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So the assumption that all the produced argon will remain trapped in the rock is almost certainly wrong. And it is also possible for argon to diffuse into the rock of course, depending on the relative concentration. So the system is not as closed as secularists would like to think.

There are some mathematical methods by which scientists attempt to estimate the initial quantity of elements in a rock, so that they can compensate for elements like argon that might have been present when the rock first formed.

Such techniques are called isochron methods. They are mathematically clever, and we may explore them in a future article. However, like the model-age method, they are known to give incorrect answers when applied to rocks of known age.

And neither the model-age method nor the isochron method are able to assess the assumption that the decay rate is uniform. As we will see below, this assumption is very dubious. Years ago, a group of creation scientists set out to explore the question of why radiometric dating methods give inflated age estimates.

We know they do because of the aforementioned tests on rocks whose origins were observed. But why? Which of the three main assumptions initial conditions are known, rate of decay is known, the system is close is false?

To answer this question, several creation geologists and physicists came together to form the RATE research initiative R adioisotopes and the A ge of T he E arth. This multi-year research project engaged in several different avenues of study, and found some fascinating results.

As mentioned above, the isochron method uses some mathematical techniques in an attempt to estimate the initial conditions and assess the closed-ness of the system.

However, neither it nor the model-age method allow for the possibility that radioactive decay might have occurred at a different rate in the past. In other words, all radiometric dating methods assume that the half-life of any given radioactive element has always been the same as it is today.

If that assumption is false, then all radiometric age estimates will be unreliable. As it turns out, there is compelling evidence that the half-lives of certain slow-decaying radioactive elements were much smaller in the past.



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