Radiometric dating - Wikipedia
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Introduction to Physical Geology Syllabus
After all, if the Earth were too young for there to have been time for evolution, the evolution debate would be over.
In John Jolyacting on suggestion of Edmund Halleyattempted estimate based on the salinity of the ocean. He calculated the amount of salt being transported into the oceans by rivers and compared this to the salinity of sea water, obtaining an age of 90 million years. Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvinduring the late 19th century, assumed that the Earth had originally been molten then, using averge melting point of rocks and the laws of thermodynamics, determined that the Earth would completely solidify within 20 million years.
Both uniformitarians and evolutionists were uncomfortable, since their notions required a much older Earth, but the quantitative rigor of Thomson's approach made his the most prestigeous estimate of his day.
As it developed, both Joly and Tomson were leaving vital but unknown information out of their equations. Joly missed that salt is removed from the oceans by various processes. Kelvin could not have know that new heat is generated inside the Earth by radioactive decay nuclear fissionbecause the process had not been discovered. The discovery of radioactivity: Ironically, radioactive decay, which frustrated Kelvin's purpose, ended up providing the true key to the absolute dating of rocks.
Discovered natural radioactivity In the following years, a large number of radioactive isotopes and their daughter products became known.
Pierre and Marie Curie: Discovered that the radioactive element radium continuously releases newly generated heat - radiogenic heat.
It is accompanied by a sister process, in which uranium decays into protactinium, which has a half-life of 32, years.
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- Radioactive dating
While uranium is water-soluble, thorium and protactinium are not, and so they are selectively precipitated into ocean-floor sedimentsfrom which their ratios are measured. The scheme has a range of several hundred thousand years. A related method is ionium—thorium datingwhich measures the ratio of ionium thorium to thorium in ocean sediment. Radiocarbon dating method[ edit ] Main article: Carbon is a radioactive isotope of carbon, with a half-life of 5, years,   which is very short compared with the above isotopes and decays into nitrogen.
Carbon, though, is continuously created through collisions of neutrons generated by cosmic rays with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere and thus remains at a near-constant level on Earth. The carbon ends up as a trace component in atmospheric carbon dioxide CO2. A carbon-based life form acquires carbon during its lifetime. Plants acquire it through photosynthesisand animals acquire it from consumption of plants and other animals. When an organism dies, it ceases to take in new carbon, and the existing isotope decays with a characteristic half-life years.Radioactive Dating
The proportion of carbon left when the remains of the organism are examined provides an indication of the time elapsed since its death. This makes carbon an ideal dating method to date the age of bones or the remains of an organism. The carbon dating limit lies around 58, to 62, years. However, local eruptions of volcanoes or other events that give off large amounts of carbon dioxide can reduce local concentrations of carbon and give inaccurate dates.
The releases of carbon dioxide into the biosphere as a consequence of industrialization have also depressed the proportion of carbon by a few percent; conversely, the amount of carbon was increased by above-ground nuclear bomb tests that were conducted into the early s. Also, an increase in the solar wind or the Earth's magnetic field above the current value would depress the amount of carbon created in the atmosphere. Fission track dating method[ edit ] Main article: This involves inspection of a polished slice of a material to determine the density of "track" markings left in it by the spontaneous fission of uranium impurities.
The uranium content of the sample has to be known, but that can be determined by placing a plastic film over the polished slice of the material, and bombarding it with slow neutrons. This causes induced fission of U, as opposed to the spontaneous fission of U. The fission tracks produced by this process are recorded in the plastic film. The uranium content of the material can then be calculated from the number of tracks and the neutron flux.
This scheme has application over a wide range of geologic dates. For dates up to a few million years micastektites glass fragments from volcanic eruptionsand meteorites are best used. Older materials can be dated using zirconapatitetitaniteepidote and garnet which have a variable amount of uranium content. The technique has potential applications for detailing the thermal history of a deposit.
The residence time of 36Cl in the atmosphere is about 1 week. Thus, as an event marker of s water in soil and ground water, 36Cl is also useful for dating waters less than 50 years before the present. Luminescence dating methods[ edit ] Main article: Luminescence dating Luminescence dating methods are not radiometric dating methods in that they do not rely on abundances of isotopes to calculate age. Instead, they are a consequence of background radiation on certain minerals.
Over time, ionizing radiation is absorbed by mineral grains in sediments and archaeological materials such as quartz and potassium feldspar. The radiation causes charge to remain within the grains in structurally unstable "electron traps". Exposure to sunlight or heat releases these charges, effectively "bleaching" the sample and resetting the clock to zero.
The trapped charge accumulates over time at a rate determined by the amount of background radiation at the location where the sample was buried.