New RATE Data Support a Young World: Zircons are young
New experiments for the RATE project strongly support a young earth. This article updates results announced in an ICR Impact article and documented at a technical conference. Our experiments measured how rapidly nuclear-decay- generated Helium escapes from tiny radio-active crystals in granite-like rock. The new data extend into a critical range of temperatures, and they resoundingly confirm a numerical prediction we published several years before the experiments.4 The Helium loss rate is so high that almost all of it would have escaped during the alleged 1.5 billion year uniformitarian5 age of the rock, and there would be very little Helium in the crystals today. But the crystals in granitic rock presently contain a very large amount of Helium, and the new experiments support an age of only 6000 years. Thus these data are powerful evidence against the long ages of uniformitarianism and for a recent creation consistent with Scripture. Here are some details:
Radioactive crystals make and lose Helium
These radioactive crystals, called zircons, are common in granitic rock. As a zircon crystal grows in cooling magma, it incorporates Uranium and Thorium atoms from the magma into its crystal lattice. After a zircon is fully formed and the magma cools some more, a crystal of black mica called biotite forms around it. Other minerals, such as quartz and feldspar, form adjacent to the biotite.
The Uranium and Thorium atoms inside a zircon decay through a series of intermediate elements to eventually become atoms of Lead. Many of the inter-mediate nuclei emit alpha particles, which are nuclei of Helium atoms. For zircons of the sizes we are considering, most of the fast-moving alpha particles slow to a stop within the zircon. Then they gather two electrons apiece from the surrounding crystal and become Helium atoms. Thus a Uranium 238 atom produces eight Helium atoms as it becomes a Lead 206 atom. (See diagram.)
Helium atoms are lightweight, fast-moving, and do not form chemical bonds with other atoms. They move rapidly between the atoms of a material and spread themselves as far apart as possible. This process of diffusion, theoretically well-understood for over a century, makes Helium leak rapidly out of most materials.
Natural zircons still contain much Helium
In 1974, in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, geoscientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory drilled a borehole several miles deep into the hot, dry granitic rock to determine how suitable it would be as a geothermal energy source. They ground up samples from the rock cores, extracted the zircons, and measured the amount of Uranium, Thorium, and Lead in the crystals. From those data they calculated that 1.5 billion years worth of nuclear decay had taken place in the zircons,6 making the usual uniformitarian assumption that decay rates have always been constant.7
Then they sent core samples from the same borehole to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for analysis. At Oak Ridge, Robert Gentry (a well-known creationist) and his colleagues extracted the zircons, selected crystals between 50 and 75 µm (0.002 to 0.003 inches) long, and measured the total amount of Helium in them. They used the Los Alamos Uranium-Lead data to calculate the total amount of Helium the decay had produced in the zircons. Comparing the two values gave the percentage of Helium still retained in the zircons, which they published in 1982.8
Their results were remarkable. Up to 58 percent of the nuclear-decay-generated Helium had not diffused out of the zircons. The percentages decreased with increasing depth and temperature in the borehole. That confirms diffusion had been happening, because the rate of diffusion in any material increases strongly with temperature. Also, the smaller the crystal, the less Helium should be retained. These zircons were both tiny and hot, yet they had retained huge amounts of Helium!
Experiments verify RATE prediction
Many creationists believed it would be impossible for that much Helium to remain in the zircons after 1.5 billion years, but we had no measurements of diffusion rates to substantiate that belief. As of 2000 the only reported Helium diffusion data for zircons9 were ambiguous. So in that year, the RATE project commissioned experiments to measure Helium diffusion in zircon (as well as biotite) from the same borehole. The experimenter was one of the world’s foremost experts in Helium diffusion measurements in minerals.
At the same time, we estimated the diffusion rates that would be necessary to get Gentry’s observed Helium retentions for two different zircon ages: (a) 6000 years, and (b) 1.5 billion years. Then in the year 2000 we published the two sets of rates as “Creation” and “Evolution” models in our book outlining the RATE project goals.10
The next year, 2001, we received a preprint of a paper reporting data on zircons from another site. In 2002 we received zircon data for our site from our experimenter. Both sets of data cover a temperature range of 300º to 500º C, which is somewhat higher than the temperature range of Gentry’s data and our prediction, 100º to 277º C. Both sets agree with each other and, while not overlapping our “Creation” model, both lined up nicely with it. We reported these data in a technical paper that the editors of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism11 accepted for publication in their Proceedings.12
In July 2003, just one month before the conference, we received a new set of zircon and biotite data from our experimenter. These data were much more useful to us, in three ways: (1) these zircons were 50 to 75 µm in length, (2) both zircons and biotite came from a 1490 meter depth, (3) the zircon diffusion rate data went down to 175º C. Items (1) and (2) mean that these zircons matched Gentry’s exactly, being from the same borehole, rock unit, depth range, and size range. Item (3) means the diffusion rate data now extend well into the temperature range of our models.
These new data13 agree very well with our “Creation” model prediction, as the figure shows. Moreover, the diffusion rates are nearly 100,000 times higher than the maximum rates the “Evolution” model could allow, thus emphatically repudiating it.
New data closes loopholes
The experimenter also accurately measured the total amounts of Helium in both the zircons and in the surrounding flakes of biotite. This ties up some loose ends for our case: (1) The total amount of Helium in the zircons confirms Gentry’s retention measurements very well. (2) Our measurements show that the Helium concentration was about 300 times higher in the zircons than in the surrounding biotite. This confirms that Helium was diffusing out of the zircons into the biotite, not the other way around. (3) The total amount of Helium in the biotite flakes (which are much larger than the zircons) is roughly equal to the amount the zircons lost.
Compare this situation to an hourglass whose sand represents the Helium atoms: We have data (from Uranium and Lead) for the original amount in the top (zircon), the present amount in the top, the present amount in the bottom (biotite), and the rate of trickling (diffusion) between them. That makes our case very strong that we are reading the Helium “hourglass” correctly.
The zircons are young
The new data allow us to calculate more exactly how long diffusion has been taking place. The result is 6000 (± 2000) years—about 250,000 times smaller than the alleged 1.5 billion year Uranium-Lead age. This and other exciting new developments in RATE projects are confirming our basic hypothesis: that God drastically speeded up decay rates of long half-life nuclei during the Genesis Flood and other brief periods in the earth’s short history. Such accelerated nuclear decay collapses the uniformitarian “ages” down to the Scriptural timescale of thousands of years.
Polonium Radiohalos: The Model for Their Formation Tested and Verified
One focus of the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project was radiohalos research.1 It was concluded that the uranium (238U) and polonium (Po) radiohalos frequently found in granitic rocks had to have formed simultaneously.2 This implies that hundreds of millions of years of radioactive decay (at today’s rates) had to have occurred in a matter of a few days! There needs to have been that much decay of 238U to produce both the visible physical damage (the radiohalos) and the required Po, but that much Po would then have decayed within a few days (because of its short half-lives, that is, very rapid decay rates). So radioisotope “ages” for such granitic rocks of hundreds of millions of years, calculated on the assumption that radioactive decay has always occurred at today’s rates, are grossly in error, and these rocks would thus have formed during the Flood year only 4500 years ago. A hydrothermal fluid (hot water) transport model was thus proposed which explained how the Po was separated from its parent 238U and then concentrated in radiocenters close by to form the Po radiohalos.3-5
Another outcome of this research was the discovery of plentiful Po radiohalos in metamorphic rocks.6 Such a finding was predicted, because hydrothermal fluids are generated in water-saturated sedimentary rocks as they become deeply buried, helping to transform them into regional metamorphic complexes.7-9 Thus it was argued that the same hydrothermal fluid transport model could likewise explain the formation of Po radiohalos in those regional metamorphic rocks where an adequate supply of U-decay products occurred.10
In continued research, a test of this Po radiohalos formation model in metamorphic rocks was proposed. Sandstones often contain some zircon grains, derived from erosion of, for example, granitic rocks and deposited in water-transported sandy sediments. Chemical weathering of such source rocks plus abrasion of grains during water transport destroys all biotite grains, so none are ever present in sandstones. However, when sandstones are metamorphosed, the resultant schists and gneisses usually contain biotite grains, which could thus have only formed via mineral reactions during the metamorphism. Such mineral reactions have been studied in laboratory experiments and in them water is often a by-product.11 At the temperatures of these metamorphic processes such water would become hydrothermal fluids capable of transporting any U-decay products from nearby zircon grains and depositing Po in biotite flakes to form Po radiohalos.
The thick Thunderhead Sandstone (Upper Precambrian Great Smoky Group) in the Great Smoky Mountains along the Tennessee/North Carolina border was deformed and regionally metamorphosed during formation of the Appalachian Highlands, beginning in the so-called Devonian (that is, early in the Flood year).12-14With increasing temperatures and pressures from northwest to southeast, the regional metamorphism produced in these sandstone layers a series of chemically and mineralogically distinct zones of schists and gneisses.15 These zones are named according to the first appearance of the distinctive metamorphic minerals which characterize them as the intensity of the metamorphism increased laterally—the biotite, garnet, staurolite, and kyanite zones. The boundaries between these zones, called isograds, are where mineral reactions have produced the new minerals because of the progressively higher temperatures and pressures.
When originally deposited, the Thunderhead Sandstone contained occasional zircon grains, but no biotite flakes. This metamorphosed sandstone, however, now contains both biotite flakes and zircon grains throughout all these metamorphic zones. Because they still contain minor amounts of U, the zircons would thus have been a source of 238U decay products including Po. Therefore, if hydrothermal fluids had been generated by the metamorphism, according to the hydrothermal fluid transport model for Po radiohalo formation, those hydrothermal fluids should have transported the Po diffusing out of the zircons into the biotite flakes, where it should have formed Po radiohalos.
In the metamorphosed Thunderhead Sandstone it was found that at the staurolite isograd, the boundary between the garnet and staurolite zones, the mineral chlorite disappears from the rocks and muscovite decreases sharply, whereas staurolite appears and biotite becomes more abundant. This can be explained by the mineral reaction:
54 muscovite + 31 chlorite —> 54 biotite + 24 staurolite +152 quartz + 224 water which has been confirmed experimentally.16-17 The generation of this water by this reaction at the prevailing high temperatures determined experimentally would thus have resulted in relatively large volumes of hydrothermal fluids in the rocks surrounding this isograd. These would have been ideal conditions for the generation of Po radiohalos in these metamorphosed sandstones, if Po radiohalo formation does indeed occur as described by the hydrothermal fluid transport model.
Therefore, as a test of the hydrothermal fluid transport model for Po radiohalo formation, nine samples of the metamorphosed Thunderhead Sandstone were collected from road-cut outcrops along U.S. Highway 441 between Cherokee, North Carolina, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, forming a traverse through the biotite, garnet, staurolite, and kyanite zones of the regional metamorphism as already described.18 The biotite flakes were separated from these samples and scanned under a microscope for radiohalos, using standardized techniques.19-20 The total number of Po radiohalos found in each sample was then plotted against each sample’s relative position along the traverse through the metamorphic zones (figure 1).
The results of this test were astounding. As can be readily seen in figure 1, whereas seven of the samples averaged around 30 Po radiohalos each, the two samples straddling the staurolite isograd contained 177 and 147 Po radiohalos respectively. This is exactly as predicted. Uranium-bearing zircon grains and biotite flakes are present in the metamorphosed sandstones in all samples along the traverse, so during the metamorphism the minor water originally in the sandstones when deposited has generated some Po radiohalos. However, where the mineral reaction around the staurolite isograd has produced a lot of hot water, large numbers of Po radiohalos have formed.
The hydrothermal fluid transport model for Po radiohalos formation has thus been tested and verified. Neither the Po nor the biotite flakes were primordial. The biotite flakes were formed in the sandstone only during the metamorphism early in the Flood year, and the Po was derived from 238U decay in the zircon grains. And where extra water was generated during the metamorphic processes, many more Po radiohalos were formed. This successful verification only serves to spur on continuing research, because the time scale implications for the formation of the Po radiohalos and these metamorphic rocks are only consistent with a global Flood on a young earth.
Radioisotope Dating of Grand Canyon Rocks: Another Devastating Failure for Long-Age Geology
by Andrew A. Snelling, Ph.D.
Deep inside the Inner Gorge of Grand Canyon, northern Arizona, are the crystalline basement rocks that probably date back even to the Creation Week itself. Clearly visible in the canyon walls are the light-colored granites, such as the Zoroaster Granite, which are stark against the darker, folded strata of the Vishnu Schist and the other metamorphic rock units of the Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite1 (see lowest purple and green shading in diagram). These are former sedimentary and volcanic strata that have been transformed by heat and pressure, possibly during the intense upheavals when the dry land was formed on Day 3 of Creation Week.2 Among these metamorphosed volcanic strata are amphibolites, belonging to the Brahma Schist. These were originally basalt lava flows several meters to tens of meters thick. In some outcrops pillow structures have been preserved, testimony to the basalt lavas having originally erupted and flowed under water onto the Creation Week ocean floor.
Metamorphic rocks are not always easy to date using radio-isotopes. Results obtained usually signify the “date” of the metamorphism, but they may also yield the “age” of the original volcanic (or sedimentary) rock. The “age” or “date” is calculated from the amount of the daughter isotope produced by radioactive decay of the parent isotope. In Grand Canyon, the “date” of metamorphism of the basalt lavas to form these Brahma amphibolites has been determined as 1690-1710 Ma (million years ago), based on U-Pb dating of minerals in the overlying Vishnu Schist and underlying Rama Schist that formed during the metamorphism.3,4 It is also claimed that the original basalt lavas were erupted between 1741 and 1750 Ma, based on U-Pb dating of “original” zircon grains in metamorphosed felsic (granitic) volcanic layers within the Brahma and Rama Schists.4,5
Twenty-seven Brahma amphibolite samples were collected from various Inner Gorge outcrops as part of the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project. These included seven samples from a 150 meter long and 2 meter wide amphibolite body outcropping just upstream from the mouth of Clear Creek at river mile 84 (measured from Lees Ferry). All 27 samples were sent to two well-credentialed internationally-recognized, commercial laboratories for radioisotope analyses—potassium-argon (K-Ar) at a Canadian laboratory, and rubidium-strontium (Rb-Sr), samarium-neodymium (Sm-Nd), and lead-lead (Pb-Pb), at an Australian laboratory. Both laboratories use standard, best-practice procedures on state-of-the-art equipment.
The model K-Ar ages for each of the samples ranged from 405.1±10 Ma to 2574.2±73 Ma. Furthermore, the seven samples from the small amphibolite unit near Clear Creek, which should all be the same age because they belong to the same metamorphosed basalt lava flow, yielded K-Ar model ages ranging from 1060.4±28 Ma to 2574.2±73 Ma. This includes two samples only 0.84 meters apart that yielded K-Ar model ages of 1205.3±31 and 2574.2±73 Ma. The computer program Isoplot6 was used to plot isochrons and calculate isochron ages from the other radioisotope analyses. The best isochron plots, where all the variation from the line of best fit to the data incorporates all the analytical errors, yielded an Rb-Sr isochron age of 1240±84 Ma, an Sm-Nd isochron age of 1655±40 Ma, and a Pb-Pb isochron age of 1883±53 Ma.
Most people believe that when the different radioisotope dating methods are used on the same rock unit they all yield the same age. However, the radioisotope dating of these Grand Canyon rocks clearly demonstrates that the disagreement, or isochron discordance, is pronounced. Even when the calculated error margins are taken into account the different radioisotope dating methods yield completely different “ages” that cannot be reconciled—1240±84 Ma (Rb-Sr), 1655±40 Ma (Sm-Nd), and 1883±53 Ma (Pb-Pb) (see diagram). None of the obtained isochron “ages” corresponds to the “date” for any recognized event, neither the original lava eruptions nor the subsequent metamorphism. And the K-Ar model “ages” are so widely divergent from one another (ranging from 405.1±10 Ma to 2574.2±73 Ma), even from very closely spaced samples from the same outcrop of the same original lava flow, as to be useless for “dating” any event.
These discordant results could easily be dismissed as an isolated aberration, perhaps due to the uncertain effects of metamorphism and any subsequent alteration, especially during erosion and weathering. However, they are confirmation of the repeated failure of all the radioisotope “dating” methods to successfully date Grand Canyon rocks.7,8 Furthermore, papers in the general geological literature are also reporting discordant radioisotope “dates” when all the methods are applied to the same rock unit,9 but tenuous “explanations” are given to account for the anomalous amounts of daughter products, and avoid the inescapable conclusion that the radioisotope methods simply do not yield reliable absolute ages.
The isochron “ages” yielded by the different parent radioisotopes for the Brahma amphibolites plotted against the present half-lifes (decay rates) of those radioisotopes according to their mode of decay. (Note that there is total disagreement between the “dates,” and the alpha-decay “dates” are much older than the beta-decay “date.”)
Yet the RATE research has uncovered much evidence, including the patterns of these discordances between the “dates” from the different radioisotope systems,10 that radioisotope decay rates were accelerated in a global catastrophic event in the recent past.11 For example, if accelerated radioisotope decay occurred, then alpha-decaying radioisotopes would yield older isochron “ages” than beta-decaying radioisotopes, which is exactly the pattern in the Brahma amphibolites (see diagram above). Because the different radioisotopes are dating the same geologic event, to have produced different “dates” has to mean that the parent radioisotopes have decayed at different rates over the same time period. In other words, the decay of the parent radioisotopes was accelerated by different amounts, the decay of those yielding older “ages” (the alpha-decayers) having been accelerated more. Obviously, if radioisotope decay was accelerated, say during the Genesis Flood, then the radioisotope decay “clocks” could never be relied upon to “date” rocks as many millions of years old. To the contrary, the rocks could still only be a few thousand years old.
The radioisotope methods, long touted as irrefutably dating the earth’s rocks as countless millions of years old, have repeatedly failed to provide reliable and meaningful absolute ages for Grand Canyon rock layers. Irreconcilable disagreement within and between the methods is the norm, even at the outcrop scale. This is a devastating “blow” to the long ages that are foundational to uniformitarian geology and evolutionary biology. Yet the discordance patterns are consistent with past accelerated radioisotope decay, which would also render these “clocks” useless. Thus there is no reliable evidence to dispute that these metamorphosed basalt lava flows deep in Grand Canyon date back to the Creation Week only thousands of years ago.
Carbon Dating Undercuts Evolutions Long Ages
Evolutionists generally feel secure even in the face of compelling creationist arguments today because of their utter confidence in the geological time scale. Even if they cannot provide a naturalistic mechanism, they appeal to the “fact of evolution,” by which they mean an interpretation of earth history with a succession of different types of plants and animals in a drama spanning hundreds of millions of years.
The Bible, by contrast, paints a radically different picture of our planet’s history. In particular, it describes a time when God catastrophically destroyed the earth and essentially all its life. The only consistent way to interpret the geological record in light of this event is to understand that fossil-bearing rocks are the result of a massive global Flood that occurred only a few thousand years ago and lasted but a year. This Biblical interpretation of the rock record implies that the animals and plants preserved as fossils were all contemporaries. This means trilobites, dinosaurs, and mammals all dwelled on the planet simultaneously, and they perished together in this world-destroying cataclysm.
Although creationists have long pointed out the rock formations themselves testify unmistakably to water catastrophism on a global scale, evolutionists generally have ignored this testimony. This is partly due to the legacy of the doctrine of uniformitarianism passed down from one generation of geologists to the next since the time of Charles Lyell in the early nineteenth century. Uniformitarianism assumes that the vast amount of geological change recorded in the rocks is the product of slow and uniform processes operating over an immense span of time, as opposed to a global cataclysm of the type described in the Bible and other ancient texts.
With the discovery of radioactivity about a hundred years ago, evolutionists deeply committed to the uniformitarian outlook believed they finally had proof of the immense antiquity of the earth. In particular, they discovered the very slow nuclear decay rates of elements like Uranium while observing considerable amounts of the daughter products from such decay. They interpreted these discoveries as vindicating both uniformitarianism and evolution, which led to the domination of these beliefs in academic circles around the world throughout the twentieth century.
However, modern technology has produced a major fly in that uniformitarian ointment. A key technical advance, which occurred about 25 years ago, involved the ability to measure the ratio of 14C atoms to 12C atoms with extreme precision in very small samples of carbon, using an ion beam accelerator and a mass spectrometer. Prior to the advent of this accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) method, the 14C/12C ratio was measured by counting the number of 14C decays. This earlier method was subject to considerable “noise” from cosmic rays.
The AMS method improved the sensitivity of the raw measurement of the 14C/12C ratio from approximately 1% of the modern value to about 0.001%, extending the theoretical range of sensitivity from about 40,000 years to about 90,000 years. The expectation was that this improvement in precision would make it possible to use this technique to date dramatically older fossil material.1 The big surprise, however, was that no fossil material could be found anywhere that had as little as 0.001% of the modern value!2 Since most of the scientists involved assumed the standard geological time scale was correct, the obvious explanation for the 14C they were detecting in their samples was contamination from some source of modern carbon with its high level of 14C. Therefore they mounted a major campaign to discover and eliminate the sources of such contamination. Although they identified and corrected a few relatively minor sources of 14C contamination, there still remained a significant level of 14C—typically about 100 times the ultimate sensitivity of the instrument—in samples that should have been utterly “14C-dead,” including many from the deeper levels of the fossil-bearing part of the geological record.2
Let us consider what the AMS measurements imply from a quantitative standpoint. The ratio of 14C atoms to 12C atoms decreases by a factor of 2 every 5730 years. After 20 half-lives or 114,700 years (assuming hypothetically that earth history goes back that far), the 14C/12C ratio is decreased by a factor of 220, or about 1,000,000. After 1.5 million years, the ratio is diminished by a factor of 21500000/5730, or about 1079. This means that if one started with an amount of pure 14C equal to the mass of the entire observable universe, after 1.5 million years there should not be a single atom of 14C remaining! Routinely finding 14C/12C ratios on the order of 0.1-0.5% of the modern value—a hundred times or more above the AMS detection threshold—in samples supposedly tens to hundreds of millions of years old is therefore a huge anomaly for the uniformitarian framework.
This earnest effort to understand this “contamination problem” therefore generated scores of peer-reviewed papers in the standard radiocarbon literature during the last 20 years.2 Most of these papers acknowledge that most of the 14C in the samples studied appear to be intrinsic to the samples themselves, and they usually offer no explanation for its origin. The reality of significant levels of 14C in a wide variety of fossil sources from throughout the geological record has thus been established in the secular scientific literature by scientists who assume the standard geological time scale is valid and have no special desire for this result!
In view of the profound significance of these AMS 14C measurements, the ICR Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE) team has undertaken its own AMS 14C analyses of such fossil material.2 The first set of samples consisted of ten coals obtained from the U. S. Department of Energy Coal Sample Bank maintained at the Pennsylvania State University. The ten samples include three coals from the Eocene part of the geological record, three from the Cretaceous, and four from the Pennsylvanian. These samples were analyzed by one of the foremost AMS laboratories in the world. Figure 1 below shows in histogram form the results of these analyses.
These values fall squarely within the range already established in the peer-reviewed radiocarbon literature. When we average our results over each geological interval, we obtain remarkably similar values of 0.26 percent modern carbon (pmc) for Eocene, 0.21 pmc for Cretaceous, and 0.27 pmc for Pennsylvanian. Although the number of samples is small, we observe little difference in 14C level as a function of position in the geological record. This is consistent with the young-earth view that the entire macrofossil record up to the upper Cenozoic is the product of the Genesis Flood and therefore such fossils should share a common 14C age.
Applying the uniformitarian approach of extrapolating 14C decay into the indefinite past translates the measured 14C/12C ratios into ages that are on the order of 50,000 years (2-50000/5730 = 0.0024 = 0.24 pmc). However, uniformitarian assumptions are inappropriate when one considers that the Genesis Flood removed vast amounts of living biomass from exchange with the atmosphere—organic material that now forms the earth’s vast coal, oil, and oil shale deposits. A conservative estimate for the pre-Flood biomass is 100 times that of today. If one takes as a rough estimate for the total 14C in the biosphere before the cataclysm as 40% of what exists today and assumes a relatively uniform 14C level throughout the pre-Flood atmosphere and biomass, then we might expect a 14C/12C ratio of about 0.4% of today’s value in the plants and animals at the onset of the Flood. With this more realistic pre-Flood 14C/12C ratio, we find that a value of 0.24 pmc corresponds to an age of only 4200 years (0.004 x 2-4200/5730 = 0.0024 = 0.24 pmc). Even though these estimates are rough, they illustrate the crucial importance of accounting for effects of the Flood cataclysm when translating a 14C/12C ratio into an actual age.
Percent Modern Carbon
Some readers at this point may be asking, how does one then account for the tens of millions and hundreds of millions of years that other radioisotope methods yield for the fossil record? Most of the other RATE projects address this important issue. Equally as persuasive as the 14C data is evidence from RATE measurements of the diffusion rate of Helium in zircon crystals that demonstrates the rate of nuclear decay of Uranium into Lead and Helium has been dramatically higher in the past and the uniformitarian assumption of a constant rate of decay is wrong.3 Another RATE project documents the existence of abundant Polonium radiohalos in granitic rocks that crystallized during the Flood and further demonstrates that the uniformitarian assumption of constant decay rates is incorrect.4 Another RATE project provides clues for why the 14C decay rate apparently was minimally affected during episodes of rapid decay of isotopes with long half-lives.5
The bottom line of this research is that the case is now extremely compelling that the fossil record was produced just a few thousand years ago by the global Flood cataclysm. The evidence reveals that macroevolution as an explanation for the origin of life on earth can therefore no longer be rationally defended.
Acknowledgement: The RATE team would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to the many generous donors who have made the high precision analyses at some of the best laboratories in the world possible. The credibility of our work in creation science research depends on these costly but crucial laboratory procedures.
Radiohalos: Significant & Exciting Research Results
Two years ago it was reported that polonium (Po) radiohalos were still “a very tiny mystery.”1 Since then, extensive research into the geological occurrence and distribution of Po, uranium (U) and thorium (Th) radiohalos has been undertaken as part of the RATE project,2 so now there are some preliminary results to report that are both significant and exciting.
What Are Radiohalos?
Radiohalos are minute spherical zones of discoloration surrounding tiny mineral crystals included in larger host mineral grains in certain rocks, particularly granites. Alpha-particles produced by radioactive decay of U, Th, and their decay products (including Po) in the tiny mineral inclusions (often zircons) penetrate the surrounding host minerals (often the dark mica, biotite) damaging their crystal lattices. Because the a-particles emitted by the different radionuclides in the U and Th decay chains have different energies, they travel different distances. Where the a-particles stop they do the most damage, resulting in spherical shells of intense discoloration, which are concentric ring structures when the rocks are studied in thin (cross) sections. Therefore, it is possible to identify which radionuclides were responsible for producing the observed radiohalos.
There are three Po radionuclides in the 238U decay chain—218Po, 214Po and 210Po. All decay very rapidly and so have very short half-lives—3.1 minutes, 164 micro-seconds and 138 days respectively. Thus the occurrence in granitic rocks of 218Po, 214Po, and 210Po radiohalos, exhibiting only the rings produced by these Po radionuclides because only these respective radionuclides were present in the radiocenters when the radiohalos formed (figure 1), has been interpreted as indicating instantaneous formation of both the Po radiohalos and the granitic rocks.3
U and Th radiohalos are not without significance either. Dark, fully-formed U and Th radiohalos are estimated to have required around 100 million years worth of radioactive decay at today’s rates to have formed,4 so their presence in granitic rocks throughout the geologic record globally would seemingly imply that at least 100 million years worth of radioactive decay at today’s rates has occurred during Earth history.5
The RATE Research
The initial focus of the research has been granitic rocks that had to have formed during the Flood year. In each case there is unequivocal evidence that the granitic rocks formed by the melting during metamorphism (changes in rocks induced by heat and pressure) of fossiliferous Flood-deposited sedimentary layers, and that the resultant granitic magmas (melted rocks) then intruded into other Flood-deposited layers. Such Flood-related granitic rocks investigated thus far include the Stone Mountain granite near Atlanta (Georgia), the La Posta zoned granodiorite and related granites in the Peninsular Ranges of southern California east of San Diego, and the Cooma granodiorite and four other granitic bodies in southeastern Australia.
The biotite grains in all these granitic rocks have large numbers of 210Po radio-halos within them, often 4-10 times the numbers of 214Po radiohalos. Dark, fully- formed 238U radiohalos (figure 2) usually occur as equally often as the 214Po radio-halos. 218Po radiohalos are very rare. However, in the Cooma granodiorite and the four other granites of southeastern Australia there are more 238U radiohalos than any of the Po radiohalos, while in two of these granites there are as many 214Po radio-halos as 210Po radiohalos. Dark, fully-formed Th radiohalos are also common in the Cooma granodiorite.
U Radiohalos and Accelerated Decay
What then is the significance of these radiohalos, discovered in this first ever systematic search in these granitic rocks? The presence in them of so many dark, fully-formed U and Th radiohalos clearly implies that at least 100 million years worth of radioactive decay at today’s rates must have occurred in these granitic rocks since they formed. However, these granitic rocks evidently formed only recently during the Flood year, so this implies that at least 100 million years worth of radioactive decay at today’s rates must have occurred during the Flood year, when geologic processes were operating at catastrophic rates. Thus the rates of radioactive decay had to have been accelerated during the Flood year and therefore conventional radioisotopic dating of rocks, which assumes constant decay rates, is unreliable and conventional “ages” are grossly in error.
Furthermore, such accelerated radioactive decay would have generated a large pulse of heat during the Flood. This in turn would have helped to initiate and drive the global tectonic processes that operated during the Flood year, and to accomplish catastrophically much geologic work, including the regional metamorphism of sedimentary strata and the melting of crustal and mantle rocks to produce granitic and other magmas.
Po Radiohalo Formation and Rapid Geologic Processes
However, the Po radiohalos are also still highly significant, due to their exceedingly short half-lives. Because these granitic rocks containing them are neither created nor primordial, the Po that parented these Po radiohalos cannot have been primordial.6 Whatever secondary processes were thus responsible for separating the necessary Po from its parent U and concentrating it into the radiocenters, the timescale involved had to be very short.
Limited space here precludes a full technical explanation and detailed justification of a proposed mechanism for Po radiohalo formation, but a comprehensive paper is being prepared for presentation at next summer’s International Conference on Creationism.7 In summary, many related lines of evidence suggest a viable hydrothermal (hot water) fluid transport model in which the immediate precursors to the Po isotopes, probably accompanied by the Po isotopes themselves, were carried exceedingly short distances within the biotite flakes from U decay in adjacent enclosed zircon grains. The Po isotopes were then continuously concentrated in appropriate radiocenters by attractive ions in lattice defects within the biotite flakes, and the Po radiohalos then formed.
The implications are far-reaching. Because the half-lives of these Po isotopes are very short, the hydrothermal fluid transport had to be extremely rapid. The hydrothermal fluids are generated as the granitic magmas cool, so the timeframe for the cooling of these granitic magmas has to have been extremely short (only days!) as the expelled hydrothermal fluids also carried away the heat.8 Because hydrothermal fluids also transport other metals in solution (such as gold, tin, copper, lead, zinc), these rapid flows of hydrothermal fluids had the potential to also rapidly deposit metallic ores, again within days! And finally, preliminary reports of U, Th, and Po radiohalos in regionally metamorphosed rocks9 could confirm that large-scale rapid flows of hydrothermal fluids catastrophically formed regional metamorphic complexes.10
Perhaps the Po radiohalos are no longer “a very tiny mystery.” If so, the U, Th, and Po radiohalos are potentially powerful evidence of the catastrophic geologic processes within the Flood year on a young Earth. Investigations are continuing on Flood-related granites; other investigations are now going to include pre-Flood granitic rocks that might extend this evidence even back into the Creation Week.
Continued on next page…