How do geologists use radiometric dating to date sedimentary rock layers indirectly

Geologists use radiometric dating to estimate how long ago rocks formed, and to infer the ages of fossils contained within those rocks. Radioactive elements decay The universe is full of naturally occurring radioactive elements. Radioactive atoms are inherently unstable; over time, radioactive "parent atoms" decay into stable "daughter atoms. When molten rock cools, forming what are called igneous rocks, radioactive atoms are trapped inside.

How do geologists use radiometric dating to date sedimentary rocks?

Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective. Roger C. Wiens has a PhD in Physics, with a minor in Geology. His PhD thesis was on isotope ratios in meteorites, including surface exposure dating. First edition ; revised version Radiometric dating--the process of determining the age of rocks from the decay of their radioactive elements--has been in widespread use for over half a century. There are over forty such techniques, each using a different radioactive element or a different way of measuring them.

It has become increasingly clear that these radiometric dating techniques agree with each other and as a whole, present a coherent picture in which the Earth was created a very long time ago. Further evidence comes from the complete agreement between radiometric dates and other dating methods such as counting tree rings or glacier ice core layers.

Many Christians have been led to distrust radiometric dating and are completely unaware of the great number of laboratory measurements that have shown these methods to be consistent. Many are also unaware that Bible-believing Christians are among those actively involved in radiometric dating. This paper describes in relatively simple terms how a number of the dating techniques work, how accurately the half-lives of the radioactive elements and the rock dates themselves are known, and how dates are checked with one another.

In the process the paper refutes a number of misconceptions prevalent among Christians today. This paper is available on the web via the American Scientific Affiliation and related sites to promote greater understanding and wisdom on this issue, particularly within the Christian community. Doubters Still Try Apparent Age? Rightly Handling the Word of Truth.

Arguments over the age of the Earth have sometimes been divisive for people who regard the Bible as God's word. Even though the Earth's age is never mentioned in the Bible, it is an issue because those who take a strictly literal view of the early chapters of Genesis can calculate an approximate date for the creation by adding up the life-spans of the people mentioned in the genealogies.

Assuming a strictly literal interpretation of the week of creation, even if some of the generations were left out of the genealogies, the Earth would be less than ten thousand years old. Radiometric dating techniques indicate that the Earth is thousands of times older than that--approximately four and a half billion years old. Many Christians accept this and interpret the Genesis account in less scientifically literal ways. However, some Christians suggest that the geologic dating techniques are unreliable, that they are wrongly interpreted, or that they are confusing at best.

Unfortunately, much of the literature available to Christians has been either inaccurate or difficult to understand, so that confusion over dating techniques continues. The next few pages cover a broad overview of radiometric dating techniques, show a few examples, and discuss the degree to which the various dating systems agree with each other. The goal is to promote greater understanding on this issue, particularly for the Christian community. Many people have been led to be skeptical of dating without knowing much about it.

For example, most people don't realize that carbon dating is only rarely used on rocks. God has called us to be "wise as serpents" Matt. In spite of this, differences still occur within the church. A disagreement over the age of the Earth is relatively minor in the whole scope of Christianity; it is more important to agree on the Rock of Ages than on the age of rocks. But because God has also called us to wisdom, this issue is worthy of study.

Rocks are made up of many individual crystals, and each crystal is usually made up of at least several different chemical elements such as iron, magnesium, silicon, etc. Most of the elements in nature are stable and do not change. However, some elements are not completely stable in their natural state. Some of the atoms eventually change from one element to another by a process called radioactive decay.

If there are a lot of atoms of the original element, called the parent element, the atoms decay to another element, called the daughter element, at a predictable rate. The passage of time can be charted by the reduction in the number of parent atoms, and the increase in the number of daughter atoms. Radiometric dating can be compared to an hourglass.

When the glass is turned over, sand runs from the top to the bottom. Radioactive atoms are like individual grains of sand--radioactive decays are like the falling of grains from the top to the bottom of the glass. You cannot predict exactly when any one particular grain will get to the bottom, but you can predict from one time to the next how long the whole pile of sand takes to fall.

Once all of the sand has fallen out of the top, the hourglass will no longer keep time unless it is turned over again. Similarly, when all the atoms of the radioactive element are gone, the rock will no longer keep time unless it receives a new batch of radioactive atoms. Page 2. Figure 1. The rate of loss of sand from from the top of an hourglass compared to exponential type of decay of radioactive elements.

In exponential decay the amount of material decreases by half during each half-life. After two half-lives one-fourth remains, after three half-lives, one-eighth, etc. Unlike the hourglass, where the amount of sand falling is constant right up until the end, the number of decays from a fixed number of radioactive atoms decreases as there are fewer atoms left to decay see Figure 1.

If it takes a certain length of time for half of the atoms to decay, it will take the same amount of time for half of the remaining atoms, or a fourth of the original total, to decay. In the next interval, with only a fourth remaining, only one eighth of the original total will decay. By the time ten of these intervals, or half-lives, has passed, less than one thousandth of the original number of radioactive atoms is left.

The equation for the fraction of parent atoms left is very simple. The type of equation is exponential, and is related to equations describing other well-known phenomena such as population growth. No deviations have yet been found from this equation for radioactive decay. Also unlike the hourglass, there is no way to change the rate at which radioactive atoms decay in rocks. If you shake the hourglass, twirl it, or put it in a rapidly accelerating vehicle, the time it takes the sand to fall will change.

But the radioactive atoms used in dating techniques have been subjected to heat, cold, pressure, vacuum, acceleration, and strong chemical reactions to the extent that would be experienced by rocks or magma in the mantle, crust, or surface of the Earth or other planets without any significant change in their decay rate. In only a couple of special cases have any decay rates been observed to vary, and none of these special cases apply to the dating of rocks as discussed here.

These exceptions are discussed later. An hourglass will tell time correctly only if it is completely sealed. If it has a hole allowing the sand grains to escape out the side instead of going through the neck, it will give the wrong time interval. Similarly, a rock that is to be dated must be sealed against loss or addition of either the radioactive daughter or parent.

If it has lost some of the daughter element, it will give an inaccurately young age. As will be discussed later, most dating techniques have very good ways of telling if such a loss has occurred, in which case the date is thrown out and so is the rock! An hourglass measures how much time has passed since it was turned over. Actually it tells when a specific amount of time, e.

Radiometric dating of rocks also tells how much time has passed since some event occurred. For igneous rocks the event is usually its cooling and hardening from magma or lava. For some other materials, the event is the end of a metamorphic heating event in which the rock gets baked underground at generally over a thousand degrees Fahrenheit , the uncovering of a surface by the scraping action of a glacier, the chipping of a meteorite off of an asteroid, or the length of time a plant or animal has been dead.

The Radiometric Clocks. There are now well over forty different radiometric dating techniques, each based on a different radioactive isotope. The term isotope subdivides elements into groups of atoms that have the same atomic weight. For example carbon has isotopes of weight 12, 13, and 14 times the mass of a nucleon, referred to as carbon, carbon, or carbon abbreviated as 12 C, 13 C, 14 C.

It is only the carbon isotope that is radioactive. This will be discussed further in a later section. A partial list of the parent and daughter isotopes and the decay half-lives is given in Table I. Notice the large range in the half-lives. Isotopes with long half-lives decay very slowly, and so are useful for dating. Table 1. Some Naturally Occurring Radioactive Isotopes and their half-lives.

Radioactive Isotope. Most half-lives taken from Holden, N. Isotopes with shorter half-lives cannot date very ancient events because all of the atoms of the parent isotope would have already decayed away, like an hourglass left sitting with all the sand at the bottom. Isotopes with relatively short half-lives are useful for dating correspondingly shorter intervals, and can usually do so with greater accuracy, just as you would use a stopwatch rather than a grandfather clock to time a meter dash.

On the other hand, you would use a calendar, not a clock, to record time intervals of several weeks or more. The half-lives have all been measured directly either by using a radiation detector to count the number of atoms decaying in a given amount of time from a known amount of the parent material, or by measuring the ratio of daughter to parent atoms in a sample that originally consisted completely of parent atoms.

Work on radiometric dating first started shortly after the turn of the 20th century, but progress was relatively slow before the late. However, by now we have had over fifty years to measure and re-measure the half-lives for many of the dating techniques. Very precise counting of the decay events or the daughter atoms can be done, so while the number of, say, rhenium atoms decaying in 50 years is a very small fraction of the total, the resulting osmium atoms can be very precisely counted.

For example, recall that only one gram of material contains over 10 21 1 with 21 zeros behind atoms. Even if only one trillionth of the atoms decay in one year, this is still millions of decays, each of which can be counted by a radiation detector! The uncertainties on the half-lives given in the table are all very small. There is no evidence of any of the half-lives changing over time. In fact, as discussed below, they have been observed to not change at all over hundreds of thousands of years.

Examples of Dating Methods for Igneous Rocks. Now let's look at how the actual dating methods work. Igneous rocks are good candidates for dating.

4. How do geologists use radiometric dating to date sedimentary rock layers indirectly? To determine the age of sedimentary rock, geologists must relate the. The sedimentary rock layers are older than the sill. A geologist finds layers of sedimentary rock immediately above an eroded anticline. What type of.

Chat or rant, adult content, spam, insulting other members, show more. Harm to minors, violence or threats, harassment or privacy invasion, impersonation or misrepresentation, fraud or phishing, show more. Yahoo Answers. How do geologists use radiometric dating to date sedimentary rocks?

Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find. They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.

This information is vital for numerical models, and answers questions about how dynamic ice sheets are, and how responsive they are to changes in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures. Unfortunately, glacial sediments are typically difficult to date.

Dating Fossils – How Are Fossils Dated?

We think you have liked this presentation. If you wish to download it, please recommend it to your friends in any social system. Share buttons are a little bit lower. Thank you! Published by David Mathews Modified over 3 years ago. Only found in sedimentary rocks.

Radiometric Dating Methods

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Finding the amount of radioactive carbon 14 dating can. Radioactive dating woman looking to form from 1 million years.

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Fossils and Radiometric Dating

Beta Decay: By , it was found to be 1. In , science firmly established that the earth was 3. The study of geology grew out of field studies associated with mining and engineering during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. In these early studies the order of sedimentary rocks and structures were used to date geologic time periods and events in a relative way. Although there were attempts to make relative age estimates, no direct dating method was available until the twentieth century. However, before this time some very popular indirect methods were available. For example, Lord Kelvin had estimated the ages of both the Earth and the Sun based on cooling rates. The answer of 25 million years deduced by Kelvin was not received favorably by geologists. Both the physical geologists and paleontologists could point to evidence that much more time was needed to produce what they saw in the stratigraphic and fossil records. As one answer to his critics, Kelvin produced a completely independent estimate — this time for the age of the Sun.

Sedimentary Rocks

Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective. Roger C. Wiens has a PhD in Physics, with a minor in Geology. His PhD thesis was on isotope ratios in meteorites, including surface exposure dating. First edition ; revised version Radiometric dating--the process of determining the age of rocks from the decay of their radioactive elements--has been in widespread use for over half a century.

Dating Fossils – How Are Fossils Dated?

Research Permits. That camel skull was found associated with a particular layer of sedimentary rock — sandstone, mudstone, limestone, etc. Absent some colossal fluke, it is almost certain that the camel lived at the same time that the rock layer was being deposited; in other words, the rock and the fossil are the same age. So the question becomes, how old is the rock layer, and how do we know? What follows is an oversimplified overview. Geologists classify rocks into three large families — igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rocks make up volcanoes and the backbones of many mountain ranges.

Sedimentary Rocks

Can we date sedimentary rocks using radiometric dating techniques? Sedimentary rocks cannot be dated directly using radiometric dating, which is based on the idea that when rocks are in liquid form, their radiometric clock resets. This technique is generally used to date igneous and metamorphic rock, which are rocks that were once melted due to extreme heat and pressure. Radiometric dating determines how long ago the liquid rock solidified into solid rock. Sedimentary rock on the other hand consists of sedimentary particles which were removed and deposited somewhere else by some sort of fluid generally wind and water. The sedimentary particles predate the rock which they form.

How do geologists use radiometric dating to date sedimentary rocks?

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Radiometric or Absolute Rock Dating
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