Radiometric dating for dummies

So in order to date most older fossils, scientists look for layers of igneous rock or volcanic ash above and below the fossil.

Scientists date igneous rock using elements that are slow to decay, such as uranium and potassium.

In fact, the whole method is a giant ‘clock’ which seems to put a very young upper limit on the age of the atmosphere.

When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.An atom with the same number of protons in the nucleus but a different number of neutrons is called an isotope.For example, uranium-238 is an isotope of uranium-235, because it has 3 more neutrons in the nucleus.If we knew the fraction of a radioactive element still remaining in a mineral, it would be a simple matter to calculate its age by the formula To determine the fraction still remaining, we must know both the amount now present and also the amount present when the mineral was formed.Contrary to creationist claims, it is possible to make that determination, as the following will explain: By way of background, all atoms of a given element have the same number of protons in the nucleus; however, the number of neutrons in the nucleus can vary.It has the same number of protons, otherwise it wouldn't be uranium.The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom is called its atomic number.For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles below.by Dr Carl Wieland An attempt to explain this very important method of dating and the way in which, when fully understood, it supports a ‘short’ timescale.These break down over time in a process scientists call radioactive decay.Each original isotope, called the parent, gradually decays to form a new isotope, called the daughter.

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