Dating Methods Using Radioactive Isotopes
Could you also please explain further what radiometric dating is and the process to use it? Radiometric dating relies on the principle of radioactive decay. All radioactive isotopes have a characteristic half-life (the amount of time that it takes . Carbon is a weakly radioactive isotope of Carbon; also known as radiocarbon , it is an mass spectrometry are the three principal radiocarbon dating methods. then starts to decrease at a rate determined by the law of radioactive decay. Radiometric dating is used to estimate the age of rocks and other objects based on the fixed decay rate of radioactive isotopes. Learn about What is Radioactive Dating? - Definition & Facts · Principles of Radiometric Dating.
It merely means that the ratios are the same in the particular magma from which the test sample was later taken. As strontium forms, its ratio to strontium will increase. Strontium is a stable element that does not undergo radioactive change. In addition, it is not formed as the result of a radioactive decay process. The amount of strontium in a given mineral sample will not change. Therefore the relative amounts of rubidium and strontium can be determined by expressing their ratios to strontium These curves are illustrated in Fig It turns out to be a straight line with a slope of The corresponding half lives for each plotted point are marked on the line and identified.
It can be readily seen from the plots that when this procedure is followed with different amounts of Rb87 in different minerals, if the plotted half life points are connected, a straight line going through the origin is produced.
These lines are called "isochrons". The steeper the slope of the isochron, the more half lives it represents. When the fraction of rubidium is plotted against the fraction of strontium for a number of different minerals from the same magma an isochron is obtained.
If the points lie on a straight line, this indicates that the data is consistent and probably accurate.
An example of this can be found in Strahler, Fig If the strontium isotope was not present in the mineral at the time it was formed from the molten magma, then the geometry of the plotted isochron lines requires that they all intersect the origin, as shown in figure However, if strontium 87 was present in the mineral when it was first formed from molten magma, that amount will be shown by an intercept of the isochron lines on the y-axis, as shown in Fig Thus it is possible to correct for strontium initially present.
The age of the sample can be obtained by choosing the origin at the y intercept. Note that the amounts of rubidium 87 and strontium 87 are given as ratios to an inert isotope, strontium However, in calculating the ratio of Rb87 to Sr87, we can use a simple analytical geometry solution to the plotted data. Again referring to Fig. Since the half-life of Rb87 is When properly carried out, radioactive dating test procedures have shown consistent and close agreement among the various methods.
If the same result is obtained sample after sample, using different test procedures based on different decay sequences, and carried out by different laboratories, that is a pretty good indication that the age determinations are accurate.
Of course, test procedures, like anything else, can be screwed up. Mistakes can be made at the time a procedure is first being developed. Creationists seize upon any isolated reports of improperly run tests and try to categorize them as representing general shortcomings of the test procedure. This like saying if my watch isn't running, then all watches are useless for keeping time. Creationists also attack radioactive dating with the argument that half-lives were different in the past than they are at present.
There is no more reason to believe that than to believe that at some time in the past iron did not rust and wood did not burn. Furthermore, astronomical data show that radioactive half-lives in elements in stars billions of light years away is the same as presently measured.
On pages and of The Genesis Flood, creationist authors Whitcomb and Morris present an argument to try to convince the reader that ages of mineral specimens determined by radioactivity measurements are much greater than the "true" i.
The mathematical procedures employed are totally inconsistent with reality. Henry Morris has a PhD in Hydraulic Engineering, so it would seem that he would know better than to author such nonsense. Apparently, he did know better, because he qualifies the exposition in a footnote stating: This discussion is not meant to be an exact exposition of radiogenic age computation; the relation is mathematically more complicated than the direct proportion assumed for the illustration.
Nevertheless, the principles described are substantially applicable to the actual relationship.
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Morris states that the production rate of an element formed by radioactive decay is constant with time. This is not true, although for a short period of time compared to the length of the half life the change in production rate may be very small. Radioactive elements decay by half-lives. At the end of the first half life, only half of the radioactive element remains, and therefore the production rate of the element formed by radioactive decay will be only half of what it was at the beginning.
The authors state on p. If these elements existed also as the result of direct creation, it is reasonable to assume that they existed in these same proportions. Say, then, that their initial amounts are represented by quantities of A and cA respectively.
Morris makes a number of unsupported assumptions: This is not correct; radioactive elements decay by half lives, as explained in the first paragraphs of this post. The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.
Radiometric Dating: Methods, Uses & the Significance of Half-Life
So, if you know the radioactive isotope found in a substance and the isotope's half-life, you can calculate the age of the substance. Half-Life So, what exactly is this thing called a half-life? Well, a simple explanation is that it is the time required for a quantity to fall to half of its starting value.
So, you might say that the 'full-life' of a radioactive isotope ends when it has given off all of its radiation and reaches a point of being non-radioactive. When the isotope is halfway to that point, it has reached its half-life.
Uranium-Lead Dating There are different methods of radiometric dating that will vary due to the type of material that is being dated. For example, uranium-lead dating can be used to find the age of a uranium-containing mineral.
It works because we know the fixed radioactive decay rates of uranium, which decays to lead, and for uranium, which decays to lead So, we start out with two isotopes of uranium that are unstable and radioactive. They release radiation until they eventually become stable isotopes of lead. These two uranium isotopes decay at different rates. In other words, they have different half-lives. The half-life of the uranium to lead is 4. The uranium to lead decay series is marked by a half-life of million years.
These differing rates of decay help make uranium-lead dating one of the most reliable methods of radiometric dating because they provide two different decay clocks. This provides a built-in cross-check to more accurately determine the age of the sample. Potassium-Argon and Rubidium-Strontium Dating Uranium is not the only isotope that can be used to date rocks; we do see additional methods of radiometric dating based on the decay of different isotopes.