Absolute dating radiometric dating
Based on these observations and the known rate of radioactive decay, they estimate the time it has taken for the daughter isotope to accumulate in the rock.
However, unlike the hourglass whose accuracy can be tested by turning it upside down and comparing it to trustworthy clocks, the reliability of the radioactive “clock” is subject to three unprovable assumptions.
PART 1: Back to Basics PART 2: Problems with the Assumptions PART 3: Making Sense of the Patterns This three-part series will help you properly understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates, and the clues about what really happened in the past.
However, this is an enormous extrapolation of seven orders of magnitude back through immense spans of unobserved time without any concrete proof that such an extrapolation is credible.This is the same age that we get for the basalt layers deep below the walls of the eastern Grand Canyon.4 How could both lavas—one at the top and one at the bottom of the Canyon—be the same age based on these parent and daughter isotopes?One solution is that both the recent and early lava flows inherited the same rubidium-strontium chemistry—not age—from the same source, deep in the earth’s upper mantle.This source already had both rubidium and strontium.To make matters even worse for the claimed reliability of these radiometric dating methods, these same basalts that flowed from the top of the Canyon yield a samarium-neodymium age of about 916 million years,5 and a uranium-lead age of about 2.6 billion years!The rate of uranium decay must have been at least 250,000 times faster than today’s measured rate! As this article has illustrated, rocks may have inherited parent and daughter isotopes from their sources, or they may have been contaminated when they moved through other rocks to their current locations.Or inflowing water may have mixed isotopes into the rocks.To date a radioactive rock, geologists first measure the “sand grains” in the top glass bowl (the parent radioisotope, such as uranium-238 or potassium-40).They also measure the sand grains in the bottom bowl (the daughter isotope, such as lead-206 or argon-40, respectively).Yet lava flows that have occurred in the present have been tested soon after they erupted, and they invariably contained much more argon-40 than expected.1 For example, when a sample of the lava in the Mt. Helens crater (that had been observed to form and cool in 1986) ( age yield incorrect old potassium-argon ages due to the extra argon-40 that they inherited from the erupting volcanoes, then ancient lava flows of unknown ages could likewise have inherited extra argon-40 and yield excessively old ages.There are similar problems with the other radioactive “clocks.” For example, consider the dating of Grand Canyon’s basalts (rocks formed by lava cooling at the earth’s surface).