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Since Lowe's paper, there have been many more reports of deep subterranean bacteria, which apparently form a heretofore unrecognized ecosystem deep below the earth in rocks and in oils (abstracts below).

Presumably most of these bacteria never interact with the "modern" C.

(Basically there are two ways of measuring C: (1) count the radioactive emissions, or, (2) a newer method, based on separating out the different carbon isotopes by their different masses via accelerator mass spectrometry [AMS] and counting the atoms themselves.) Dr.

Gove wrote back the very next day, as did one of his colleagues.

I support an aggressive expansion of nuclear power to meet our nation's future energy needs.

It is safe, reliable and produces zero carbon dioxide.

Apparently it correlates best with the content of the natural radioactivity of the rocks surrounding the fossil fuels, particularly the neutron- and alpha-particle-emitting isotopes of the uranium-thorium series. Gove and his colleagues told me they think the evidence so far demonstrates that C by local radioactive decay of the uranium-thorium series.

The Problem: Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), a sensitive radiometric dating technique, is in some cases finding trace amounts of radioactive carbon-14 in coal deposits, amounts that seem to indicate an age of around 40,000 years. By sheer coincidence, they are currently studying this exact question. It turns out that the origin and concentration of C in fossil fuels is important to the physics community because of its relevance for detection of solar neutrinos. References A great general introduction to carbon-14 dating: General information on the many types of neutrino detectors: stanford.edu/gen/meeting/ssi/1997/wojcicki4A very nice in-depth discussion of the three new neutrino detectors and how they work (scroll almost to the end to read about Borexino): diagram of the Borexino (Italy) neutrino detector - notice the enormous shielding to protect it from radiation from the surrounding rock: about the Borexino detector from Princeton University: original paper which raised this "old coal" issue: "Problems associated with the use of coal as a source of C-free background material." D. on the Applications of Accelerators in Research and Industry, J. Though this result is still too old to fit into any young-earth creationist chronology, it would also seem to represent a problem for the established geologic timescale, as conventional thought holds that coal deposits were largely if not entirely formed during the Carboniferous period approximately 300 million years ago. Since the halflife of carbon-14 is 5,730 years, any that was present in the coal at the time of formation should have long since decayed to stable daughter products. "Ion Beam Preparation Systems for Atomic Isobar Reduction in Accelerator Mass Spectrometry." 2001. Apparently one of the new neutrino detectors, the Borexino detector in Italy, works by detecting tiny flashes of visible light produced by neutrinos passing through a huge subterranean vat of "scintillation fluid". Scintillation fluid is made from fossil fuels such as methane or oil (plus some other ingredients), and it sparkles when struck by beta particles or certain other events such as neutrinos. However, if there are any native beta emitters in the fluid itself, that natural radioactive decay will also produce scintillant flashes. The team will be presenting results to date this September at the 9th International Conference on Accelerator Mass Spectrometry in Japan.) Finally, I did also get a copy of David Lowe's 1989 Radiocarbon paper. A summary: (1) old coal often has a little more C by radioactive decay. He only discussed radium, and discounted this as a major effect based on low concentrations of radium in coal (and yet my own brief stint of research has turned up many abstracts showing that concentrations of radionuclides vary widely in coal - some of these are pre-1989 so I don't know why Lowe didn't address this more carefully). on the Fundamental Aspects of Modern Physics, 2000, Luderitz, Namibia.


  1. NCSE The National Center for Science Education. 178K likes. Defending the teaching of evolution & climate science

  2. DirectAMS provides high precision radiocarbon dating services using accelerator mass spectrometry for applications in Archaeology, Geology, Anthropology.

  3. Posts about Idaho written by Mike. They tried to estimate the age of the lava flow in the picture below by dating the. Later carbon dating.

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