Radiometric age dating geology

23 Mar

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.

This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time Most absolute dates for rocks are obtained with radiometric methods.

These use radioactive minerals in rocks as geological clocks.

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. The reason for this is that Rb has become distributed unequally through the Earth over time.

We can see how do deal with this if we take a particular case. For example the amount of Rb in mantle rocks is generally low, i.e. The mantle thus has a low If these two independent dates are the same, we say they are concordant.

The example used here contrasts sharply with the way conventional scientific dating methods are characterized by some critics (for example, refer to discussion in "Common Creationist Criticisms of Mainstream Dating Methods" in the Age of the Earth FAQ and Isochron Dating FAQ).

A common form of criticism is to cite geologically complicated situations where the application of radiometric dating is very challenging.

They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.Isotopes are important to geologists because each radioactive element decays at a constant rate, which is unique to that element.Thus, if we start out with 1 gram of the parent isotope, after the passage of 1 half-life there will be 0.5 gram of the parent isotope left.After the passage of two half-lives only 0.25 gram will remain, and after 3 half lives only 0.125 will remain etc.The energies involved are so large, and the nucleus is so small that physical conditions in the Earth (i.e. The rate of decay or rate of change of the number N of particles is proportional to the number present at any time, i.e.The half-life is the amount of time it takes for one half of the initial amount of the parent, radioactive isotope, to decay to the daughter isotope.As an example of how they are used, radiometric dates from geologically simple, fossiliferous Cretaceous rocks in western North America are compared to the geological time scale.To get to that point, there is also a historical discussion and description of non-radiometric dating methods.These are often characterised as the norm, rather than the exception.I thought it would be useful to present an example where the geology is simple, and unsurprisingly, the method does work well, to show the quality of data that would have to be invalidated before a major revision of the geologic time scale could be accepted by conventional scientists.