Dinosaur Shocker | Science | Smithsonian
His technique, known as carbon dating, revolutionized the field of Earth's atmosphere is threatening to skew the accuracy of this technique for. Q: Unreliable carbon dating puts dinosaur bones over years old My goodness. That would $50 billion industry is still anyone's game. Here's what we . Ugh. There are a couple flawed assumptions within this question. First carbon. Radiometric dating methods estimate the age of rocks using calculations I now believe that the claimed accuracy of radiometric dating methods is a result This is when the dinosaurs are assumed to have become extinct.
If it dates too young, one can invoke a later heating event. Neither date would necessarily be seen as anomalous. If lava intrudes upon geologic period X, then any date for the lava of X or later will not be seen as anomalous. And even if the date is one or two geologic periods earlier, it may well be close enough to be accepted as non-spurious.
If one does not know the geologic period of a rock by other means, then of course one is likely to date it to find out, and then of course the date agrees with the geologic period and this will not be seen as anomalous. So it is difficult to know what would be a reasonable test for whether radiometric dating is reliable or not. The percentage of published dates that are considered as anomalous has little bearing on the question.
Back to top The issue about igneous bodies may need additional clarification. If a lava flow lies above geologic period A and below B, then allowable ages are anything at least as large as A and no larger than B. This is called the biostratigraphic limit of the flow. Now, according to Woodmorappe's citations, many lava flows have no such limits at all, and most of them have large limits.
For example, a flow lying on precambrian rock with nothing on top would have no limits on its dates. And such flows often have a large internal scatter of dates, but these dates are not considered as anomalies because of the unrestricted biostratigraphic limit.
Other flows with wide biostratigraphic limits have weak restrictions on allowable dates.Carbon Dating Flaws
This is one reason why just reporting the percentage of anomalies has little meaning. Thus these ages, though they generally have a considerable scatter, are not considered as anomalies. He cites another reference that most igneous bodies have wide biostrategraphic limits. Thus just by chance, many dates will be considered within the acceptable ranges. Again, the percentage of anomalies means nothing for the reliability of radiometric dating.
Now, igneous bodies can be of two types, extrusive and intrusive. Extrusive bodies are lava that is deposited on the surface.
These cool quickly and have small crystals and form basalt. Intrusive bodies are deposited in the spaces between other rocks. These cool more slowly and have larger crystals, often forming granite. Both of these tend on the average to have wide biostrategraphic limits, meaning that a large spread of ages will be regarded as non-anomalous.
And if we recall that most radiometric dating is done of igneous bodies, one sees that the percentage of anomalies is meaningless. Thus we really need some evidence that the different methods agree with each other. To make the case even stronger, "Many discrepant results from intrusives are rationalized away immediately by accepting the dates but reinterpreting the biostrategraphic bracket," according to John Woodmorappe.
This of course means that the result is no longer anomalous, because the geologic period has been modified to fit the date. Finally, the fact that the great majority of dates are from one method means that the general but not universal agreement of K-Ar dating with itself is sufficient to explain the small percentange of anomalies if it is small. Back to top Now, the point about agreement is that whatever figure is given about how often ages agree with the expected age, is consistent with the fact that there is no agreement at all between K-Ar and other methods, since so many measurements are done using K-Ar dating.
And one of the strongest arguments for the validity of radiometric dating is that the methods agree. So when one combines all of the above figures, the statement that there are only 10 percent anomalies or 5 percent or whatever, does not have any meaning any more. This statement is made so often as evidence for the reliability of radiometric dating, that the simple evidence that it has no meaning, is astounding to me.
I don't object to having some hard evidence that there are real agreements between different methods on the geologic column, if someone can provide it.
The precambrian rock is less interesting because it could have a radiometric age older than life, but this is less likely for the rest of the geologic column. It's not surprising that K-Ar dates often agree with the assumed dates of their geological periods, since the dates of the geological periods were largely inferred from K-Ar dating.
By the way, Ar-Ar dating and K-Ar dating are essentially the same method, so between the two of them we obtain a large fraction of the dates being used. Some information from an article by Robert H. History of the Radioisotope based Geologic Time Scale Before the discovery of radioactivity in the late nineteenth century, a geological time scale had been developed on the basis of estimates for the rates of geological processes such as erosion and sedimentation, with the assumption that these rates had always been essentially uniform.
On the basis of being unacceptably old, many geologists of the time rejected these early twentieth century determinations of rock age from the ratio of daughter to radioactive parent large.
Byincreased confidence in radioisotope dating techniques and the demands of evolution theory for vast amounts of time led to the establishment of an expanded geological time scale.
The construction of this time scale was based on about radioisotope ages that were selected because of their agreement with the presumed fossil and geological sequences found in the rocks. Igneous rocks are particularly suited to K-Ar dating. The crucial determiners are therefore volcanic extrusive igneous rocks that are interbedded with sediments, and intrusive igneous rocks that penetrate sediments.
This verifies what I said about almost all of the dates used to define correct ages for geologic periods being K-Ar dates. Also, the uncertainty in the branching ratio of potassium decay might mean that there is a fudge factor in K-Ar ages of up to a third, and that the occasional agreements between K-Ar ages and other ages are open to question.
So the point is that there is now no reason to believe that radiometric dating is valid on the geologic column. Back to top Another issue is that sometimes the geologic periods of rocks are revised to agree with the ages computed.
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This also makes data about percentages of anomalies less meaningful. It sometimes seems that reasons can always be found for bad dates, especially on the geologic column. If a rock gives a too old date, one says there is excess argon. If it gives a too young date, one says that it was heated recently, or cannot hold its argon.
How do we know that maybe all the rocks have excess argon? It looks like geologists are taking the "majority view" of K-Ar dating, but there is no necessary reason why the majority of rocks should give the right date. The following quote is from the article by Robert H. What is a Radioisotope Age?
The relationship of a radioisotope age with real-time must be based on an interpretation. A discussion of rubidium-strontium ages in the Isotope Geoscience Section of the journal, Chemical Geology, specifically states that a radioisotope age determination "does not certainly define a valid age information for a geological system.
Any interpretation will reflect the interpreters presuppositions bias. Back to top Concerning the need for a double blind test, it would seem that there are many places where human judgment could influence the distribution of measured radiometric dates.
It could increase the percentage of anomalies, if they were regarded as more interesting. It could decrease them, if they were regarded as flukes. Human judgment could determine whether points were collinear enough to form an isochron.
It could determine whether a point can justifiably be tossed out and the remaining points used as an isochron. It could determine whether one should accept simple parent-to-daughter K-Ar ratios or whether some treatment needs to be applied first to get better ages. It could influence whether a spectrum is considered as flat, whether a rock is considered to have undergone leaching or heating, whether a rock is porous or not, or whether a sample has been disturbed in some way.
Since one of the main reasons for accepting radiometric dates at least I keep hearing it is that they agree with each other, I think that geologists have an obligation to show that they do agree, specifically on the geologic column.
Since we do not know whether or how much human judgment is influencing radiometric dating, a double blind study is most reasonable. And it should not be restricted to just one or two well-behaved places, but should be as comprehensive as possible.
Back to top The following information was sent to me by e-mail: Radiometric dating is predicated on the assumption that throughout the earth's history radioactive decay rates of the various elements have remained constant. Is this a warranted assumption? Has every radioactive nuclide proceeded on a rigid course of decay at a constant rate? This has been challenged by studies involving Carbon C At the temperature or pressure, collisions with stray cosmic rays or the emanations of other atoms may cause changes other than those of normal disintegration.
It seems very possible that spontaneous disintegration of radioactive elements are related to the action of cosmic rays and the rate of disintegration varying from century to century according to the intensity of the rays.
The evidence for a strongly increasing change in the cosmic ray influx is most favorable especially in light of the decay of the earth's magnetic field. Most geochronologists maintain that pleochroic haloes give evidence that decay constants have not changed.
Crystals of biotite, for example, and other minerals in igneous or metamorphic rocks commonly enclose minute specks of minerals containing uranium or thorium. The a- alpha particles emitted at high velocity by the disintegrating nuclides interact, because of their charge, with electrons of surrounding atoms which slow them down until they finally come to rest in the host material at a distance from their source that depends on their initial kinetic energy and the density and composition of the host.
Where they finally stop to produce lattice distortions and defects there generally occurs discoloring or darkening. Each of the 8 a-particles emitted during the disintegration of U to Pb produces a dark ring in biotite.
Each ring has its own characteristic radius in a given mineral in this case biotite. This radius measures the kinetic energy, hence the probability of emission of the corresponding a-particle and also the half-life of the parent nuclide according to the Geiger-Nuttall law. The Geiger-Nuttall law is an empirical relation between half-life of the a-emitter and the range in air of the emitted a-particles.
If the radii of these haloes from the same nuclide vary, this would imply that the decay rates have varied and would invalidate these series as being actual clocks.
Are the radii in the rocks constant in size or are there variable sizes? Most of the early studies of pleochroic haloes were made by Joly and Henderson.
Joly concluded that the decay rates have varied on the basis of his finding a variation of the radii for rocks of alleged geological ages. This rather damaging result was explained away saying that enough evidence of correct radii for defferent geologic periods and sufficient variation in the same period have been obtained that one is forced to look for a different explanation of such variations as were observed by Joly.
Measurements were later made in an excellent collection of samples with haloes. It was found that the extent of the haloes around the inclusions varies over a wide range, even with the same nuclear material in the same matrix, but all sizes fall into definite groups.
The measurements are, in microns, 5,7,10,17,20,23,27, and More recent studies have been made by Robert V. Gentry also finds a variation in the haloes leading him to conclude that the decay constants have not been constant in time. Gentry points out an argument for an instantaneous creation of the earth. He noted form his studies of haloes: For the Po half-life of 3 minutes only a matter of minutes could elapse between the formation of the Po and subsequent crystallization of the mica; otherwise the Po would have decayed, and no ring would be visible.
The occurrence of these halo types is quite widespread, one or more types having been observed in the micas from Canada Pre-CambrianSweden, and Japan. So, then, careful scientists have measured variations in halo radii and their measurements indicate a variation in decay rates. The radioactive series then would have no value as time clocks. The following quotation also suggests a cause for a change in the decay rate: Jueneman Industrial Research, Sept.
The remnant of that local big bang is a pulsar called Vela-X PSRwhich recent observations have positioned in the southern sky some 1, light years away, and which is considered to have given rise to the huge Gum Nebula Being so close, the anisotropic neutrino flux of the super-explosion must have had the peculiar characteristic of resetting all our atomic clocks.
This is significant because it is known that neutrinos do interact with the nucleii of atoms, and it is also believed that much of the energy of supernovae is carried away by neutrinos.
Back to top Isochrons are an attempt to avoid the need for an absence of daughter element initially in computing radiometric ages. The idea is that one has a parent element, X, a daughter element, Y, and another isotope, Z, of the daughter that is not generated by decay. One would assume that initially, the concentration of Z and Y are proportional, since their chemical properties are very similar. Radioactive decay would generate a concentration of Y proportional to X.
A good general introduction to isochrons from an evolutionary perspective can be found at http: If the concentration of K varies in a rock, that it is unlikely for the concentration of added argon 40 to vary in a way that will yield an isochron.
Carbon dating dinosaur bones
But if the concentration of K does not vary, then one can still get an isochron if the concentration of the non-radiogenic isotope Ar36 of the daughter product varies. So let's call an isochron a "super-isochron" if the concentration of the parent element varies from one sample to another. Let's call it a "wimpy isochron" otherwise. The question is, what percentage of isochrons are super-isochrons, and how do their dates agree with the conventional dates for their geologic period?
I would think that it may be rare to have a super-isochron. If one is dealing with minerals that exclude parent or daughter, then one cannot get an isochron at all. When these plants and animals die, they cease taking in carbon. From that point forward, the amount of Carbon in materials left over from the plant or animal will decrease over time, while the amount of Carbon will remain unchanged. To radiocarbon date an organic material, a scientist can measure the ratio of remaining Carbon to the unchanged Carbon to see how long it has been since the material's source died.
Advancing technology has allowed radiocarbon dating to become accurate to within just a few decades in many cases. Carbon dating is a brilliant way for archaeologists to take advantage of the natural ways that atoms decay. Unfortunately, humans are on the verge of messing things up. The slow, steady process of Carbon creation in the upper atmosphere has been dwarfed in the past centuries by humans spewing carbon from fossil fuels into the air.
Since fossil fuels are millions of years old, they no longer contain any measurable amount of Carbon Thus, as millions of tons of Carbon are pushed into the atmosphere, the steady ratio of these two isotopes is being disrupted.
In a study published last yearImperial College London physicist Heather Graven pointed out how these extra carbon emissions will skew radiocarbon dating. Before female birds start to lay eggs, they form a calcium-rich structure called medullary bone on the inside of their leg and other bones; they draw on it during the breeding season to make eggshells.
In fact, they say that birds are dinosaurs—colorful, incredibly diverse, cute little feathered dinosaurs. The theropod of the Jurassic forests lives on in the goldfinch visiting the backyard feeder, the toucans of the tropics and the ostriches loping across the African savanna. To understand her dinosaur bone, Schweitzer turned to two of the most primitive living birds: In the summer ofshe asked several ostrich breeders for female bones.
A farmer called, months later. Schweitzer and two colleagues collected a leg from the fragrant carcass and drove it back to Raleigh. As far as anyone can tell, Schweitzer was right: Bob the dinosaur really did have a store of medullary bone when she died. A paper published in Science last June presents microscope pictures of medullary bone from ostrich and emu side by side with dinosaur bone, showing near-identical features.
In the course of testing a B. One Friday night in JanuaryWittmeyer was in the lab as usual. She took out a fossil chip that had been in the acid for three days and put it under the microscope to take a picture. She used forceps to flatten it. I was like, stop it! Suddenly Schweitzer and Wittmeyer were dealing with something no one else had ever seen. For a couple of weeks, Wittmeyer said, it was like Christmas every day.
In the lab, Wittmeyer now takes out a dish with six compartments, each holding a little brown dab of tissue in clear liquid, and puts it under the microscope lens. Inside each specimen is a fine network of almost-clear branching vessels—the tissue of a female Tyrannosaurus rex that strode through the forests 68 million years ago, preparing to lay eggs. Close up, the blood vessels from that T.
The fatal flaw with radioactive dating methods
Of course, what everyone wants to know is whether DNA might be lurking in that tissue. But DNA, which carries the genetic script for an animal, is a very fragile molecule. Instead, Schweitzer has been testing her dinosaur tissue samples for proteins, which are a bit hardier and more readily distinguished from contaminants.