Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Even When Scientists are Wrong, Creationists Still Aren't Right

ResearchBlogging.orgNew evidence has shown the most commonly given age of the solar system is wrong.

The equations used to derive the age of it from radiometric dating of numerous isotopes was fundamentally flawed because it assumed that the ratio of certain isotopes was the same. Detailed new measurements have shown it's not.

This "implies substantial uncertainties in the ages previously determined by Pb-Pb dating". So astronomers have had to recalculate the age of the solar system given this new information.

The old age: 4.6 billion years.
The new age: 4.6 billion years.

Oh wait.... let me zoom in a bit and add a few more significant digits.

Old: 4.567 billion years.
New: 4.566 billion years.

See! See! Scientists got it wrong!

But wait.... how it that "substantial"? It still doesn't mean that the Earth is 6,000 years old and Jesus rode around on a dinosaur.

In the full geological history of the Earth, that ~1 million years isn't that important. But on the timescales in which solar system formation takes place, it's a decent chunk of time and we need a good understanding of timescales to put into models to make them as accurate as possible.

This won't mean a rewrite of any high school textbooks since the significant digits are rounded off before this change is even noticed, but this is yet another example of how science is self correcting and is constantly challenging its own assumptions.
Brennecka, G., Weyer, S., Wadhwa, M., Janney, P., Zipfel, J., & Anbar, A. (2009). 238U/235U Variations in Meteorites: Extant 247Cm and Implications for Pb-Pb Dating Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1180871

8 comments:

David Marjanović said...

Fascinating that the age of the solar system can now be dated to within a single million years! I grew up with an uncertainty of 100 of those, and I'm only 27 years old!

Anonymous said...

Maybe 6000 years is the time of the invention of the lie.

Janet said...

You've got problems! I studied geology thirty years ago and I'm constantly amazed to be told that things that were dated to the nearest 10-20 million years then are now known to mere tens of thousands!! It's gobsmacking!

Kathy Orlinsky said...

Just when you get used to something, you find out it's wrong. Sigh. I guess I'd better start calling those creationist to apologize.

Ted said...

I thought you were being super picky, since surely no creationist would bother about such a small effect. Wrong! See:

http://www.icr.org/article/its-official-radioactive-isotope-dating/

I especially liked the references to lead-238 and lead-235, and the claim that lead-235 is stable really made my day!

Kathy Orlinsky said...

Just when you get used to something, you find out it's wrong. Sigh. I guess I'd better start calling those creationist to apologize.

Janet said...

You've got problems! I studied geology thirty years ago and I'm constantly amazed to be told that things that were dated to the nearest 10-20 million years then are now known to mere tens of thousands!! It's gobsmacking!

David Marjanović said...

Fascinating that the age of the solar system can now be dated to within a single million years! I grew up with an uncertainty of 100 of those, and I'm only 27 years old!