Radiometric Dating


Link between radiometric dating and lightspeed
What about the RATE group?
Isn’t dendrochronology accurate for checking radiocarbon dating?
-- some quotes on radiocarbon dating
Change in Decay Rates
Atomic Ages
Cesium 133
Oldest Living Tree?


The link between radiometric dating and lightspeed

Question: Is there a direct link between radiometric dating and the speed of light?

Setterfield:  Yes, there is.  'c', the speed of light, is in the numerator of every reduced radio decay rate equation.

Question: Could you please explain to me in simple terms why the rate of  atomic decay depends upon the speed of light?

Setterfield: Atomic decay rates do not depend on the speed of light. Both are, however, 'children' of the same parent -- the Zero Point Energy. Because of this, and because the speed of light is in the numerator of every reduced radio decay rate equation, any changes in the speed of light are indicating changes in atomic decay rates.

Question:  Is there a direct link between c-dependent radioactive decay rates and geological processes?

Setterfield: Yes there is.  Importantly, the original short  half-life elements were also a contributor and they have gone now.  This also made for rapid heating of the earth interior (cool to start  with). Furthermore, there is evidence that the main radioactive elements were concentrated in a layer low in the mantle and came to the surface progressively after that.

Comment:  I emailed you about this topic a year or two ago, and I've since taken a class in radioisotope chemistry at UCI. As a result I was using some of my texts to examine the decay of Americium 241 and noted the naturally occurring decay chains for U235, U238 and Th232, as well as the fully decayed chain for Pu241. My thought is, can the relative natural abundances of these chains' terminal products (Pb208,207, and 206) be used to calculate an initial abundance and time frame for the original atomic abundances of the parent isotopes which could be compared to the predictions of Willie Fowler regarding stellar nucleogenesis processes. I hope to hear from you soon! Thanks again for all your interesting and informative web postings and work.

Setterfield: I believe that it is possible to determine the initial ratios of the parent elements in the various chains. It is through this mechanism that the radiometric age of the universe is usually calculated as being on the order of ten billion years. Professor Fowler did exactly this and has maintained his calculated radiometric age for the universe at about 10 billion years, with which I am basically in agreement. Interestingly, using these sorts of ratios, one piece of moon rock dated as being 8.2 billion years old, to the amazement of the dating laboratory involved.

As far as stars are concerned, the Th/Nd ratio has been shown to be unchanged no matter what the age of the star is, which leads one to two conclusions. Firstly, supernovae have not added a significant amount of new elements to putative star-forming clouds. If they had, the ratio would be different in various stars. This then suggests that the majority of the elements were formed at the beginning rather than through a series of supernovae explosions.

Given that point, it seems that the stars must be basically the same age.



Comment: I've been reading "Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits" by John D. Barrow and he has an interesting discussion on the speed of light in our geological past. On pages 186 and 187 he describes the discovery at Oklo in the West African Republic of Gabon, of the remnants of an ancient site where an accident of geology produced, for a while, the conditions suitable for a sustained chain reaction to take place - a sort of natural nuclear reactor. It was moderated by water permeating a deposit of uranium. As the reaction would proceed, the water would heat up and vaporize, thereby depriving the neutrons of the moderating influence of liquid water, and the reaction would slow down. As the water vapor condensed and reformed, the reaction would pick up the pace again. This didn't last very long on a geological time scale, but the reaction results are very informative. In particular, because of the way mass and energy are related, they could not have been at variance from our present day observations by any more than one part in ten million; otherwise the natural reactor would not have functioned. And this took place 1.8 billion years ago. Barrow cites M. Maurette, "The Oklo Reactor", Annual Reviews of Nuclear and Particle Science, 26,319 (1976) and A.I Shylakhter, Nature, 264, 340 (1976) and F Dyson and T Damour, "The Oklo Bound on the time variation of the fine-structure constant revisited", Nuclear Physics, B480 37 (1997)

Any significant variation in the relationship between mass and energy - the only variables that determine the speed of light in Einstein's famous e = m c squared - would have to be dated prior to 1.8 billion years ago, based on this witness from God's creation.

Setterfield: There is a discussion of the effects of radioactive decay and natural ore bodies in Ex Nihilo Technical Journal Vol. 1, 1984, pp. 126-129. My reply on those pages was sparked by a question about Oklo and other ore bodies by Bob Gentry.

The basic fact about Uranium ore bodies is that they need slow neutrons to be captured by the uranium nucleus in order to produce the reaction. It is for that reason that water was needed at Oklo to slow the neutrons down sufficiently for the ore body to start a chain reaction. With high c values, it can be shown that atomic particles moved faster, proportional to c. This included the neutrons produced at Oklo. The high-speed neutrons were not near the uranium nucleii long enough to produce any reaction, just as high-speed neutrons are today. As essentially all the neutrons were in that category when c was higher, the chance of a reaction was significantly lower. The conclusion is that neutron induced reactions in ores, though minimal now, would have been even more minimal with higher light speed, so no chain reaction would occur. For a fuller discussion, refer to the original article.

Note: more material may be found here.


What about the RATE group?

RATE is the Institute of Creation Research's acronym for Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth. It is a group put together for the purposes of studying the geologic record in terms of radioisotope dating.

Dr. Andrew Snelling, one of the RATE team members, is a personal friend and was kind enough to give us the following statement for this page to help clear up the above misconceptions and any others:

It needs to be stressed that the RATE group recognises that there is physical evidence in the rocks that massive amounts of radioactive decay have occurred through the earth's history, and that there is a systematic trend in the radioisotopic 'ages' of the rocks in the geologic record from oldest at the bottom to youngest at the top. However, there are many anomalies and there is much evidence of radioisotopic inheritance and mixing because of global tectonic processes having stirred the mantle and added magmas to the crust, which has likewise been stirred by the crustal rock cycle. The objective of the RATE research is to develop a model which is consistent with the radioisotopic data and with the Biblical record of a recent creation and catastrophic global flood. The need to spend money on analyses of rock samples by reputable laboratories is to ensure that we have data to model that are free of any bias that may have occurred in laboratories where the 'target ages' are known before the analyses. Also, many rock units have been radioisotopically dated by only one or two radioisotopic systems, whereas we need to see if there are patterns in the results when rock units are 'dated' by all the major radioisotopic systems. This is where money has needed to be spent, but this procedure is obtaining original results that are proving invaluable in developing a model and an understanding of the radioisotopic data within our Biblical framework for earth history.

We would like to stress, additionally, that the Setterfield research is presenting reasons why there are old age results in the field of radioisotope dating. The RATE group is looking, as Dr. Snelling indicated above, for the patterns and anomalies that exist in line with completely new data sets.

2012 note: The RATE group has decided there are two or three miraculous times during the earth's history when decay rates were suddenly increased enormously and then went back to today's rates. They have no reason for this, but the data demands some kind of explanation for evidence of increased decay rates in the past. Our research has shown that these increased decay rates were not a matter of sudden miracles or special times which came and went, but were a matter of the increasing strength of the Zero Point Energy throughout space. Once the Zero Point Energy reached its maximum, any changes in either atomic constants or the decay rates have been extremely minimal.

We sincerely hope that this is enough to clear up misconceptions regarding the two different approaches.


Isn’t dendrochronology accurate for checking radiocarbon dating?

Question:  Tree ring counts (dendrochronology) has long been used to verify radiocarbon dating.  How can you say that radiocarbon dating is wrong?

Setterfield:  Radiocarbon dating requires the most assumptions of any of the dating methods and is therefore the least accurate.  Dendrochronology also makes many assumptions, a number of which can easily be shown to be questionable.   In the tropics, many trees maintain a steady rate of growth and so do not produce rings at all.  In moderate climates, tree ring production depends upon both rain and sun.  As a result, seeds from the same tree which are planted at the same time in different areas can show different tree ring development.  If they are on different sides of a mountain one will probably get more water than the other, and in twenty or fifty years their ring thicknesses would not be correlated as coming from the same set of years.  If one grows in the sun and one grows in the shade of other trees, again the tree ring development will be different.

For this reason, although tree rings can be reasonably accurate to the age of one particular tree, trying to correlate one tree with another to try to extend the ages being determined is not at all an exact science.  Similar patterns can be shown in trees from very different times and different patterns can be shown in trees from the same time. 

Thus, trying to correlate carbon14 dates with tree rings ends up taking on some circularity as an argument for accuracy.  The tree rings are often initially dated using carbon 14 where old wood is concerned.  Then matches are attempted with known younger or older wood and carbon14 is verified by these.  This is not always the pattern, but it is enough of the time to cast some real doubt on the efficacy of using dendrochronology to verify radiocarbon dating.

"Dating in Archaeology: Radiocarbon & Tree Ring Dating" by Trevor Major is a very good article dealing with the problems in this area. It brings up some good points about both radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology.  The summary of the article is as follows:

"Radiocarbon dating assumes that the carbon-12/carbon-14 ratio has stayed the same for at least the last hundred thousand years or so. However, the difference between production and decay rates, and the systematic discrepancy between radiocarbon and tree-ring dates, refute this assumption. Instead, the evidence for change is entirely consistent with a recent Creation and catastrophic Flood.

"Some creationists have used this information to model a biblically consistent version of the radiocarbon method. While commending them for their effort, we should not be surprised at their lack of success, for this reason: they must still presume to know the starting conditions. This is the critical assumption on which all “absolute” dating methods must fail, whether they are used by evolutionists or creationists.

"Similarly, we should not accept the claims for dendrochronology at face value. Bristlecones may add more than one growth ring per year, and the “art” of cross dating living and dead trees may be a considerable source of error.

"Both radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology face technical problems, and are loaded with uniformitarian and old Earth ideas. They assume that nature works today the same as it has worked for millions of years, yet the facts do not support this contention. Neither method should give us cause to abandon the facts of biblical history."

Another good references regarding problems with dendrochronology is at Dendrochronology


Some quotes on radiocarbon dating:

Because of the number of creation articles debunking radiocarbon dating, journals and other publications are now loathe to admit problems. But the problems with this form of dating are many, especially as compared to zircon crystals, for example. Here are some of the older quotes from when problems were being publicly admitted:

"It is self evident that a contaminated sample will give an erroneous date, but it is frequently impossible to ascertain if a sample has indeed been contaminated."
R.S. Bradley, Quaternary Paleoeclimatology, London, Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1985, p. 54

"Relative ages are always subject to interpretation, and radiocarbon dates are often ignored or dismissed as a "bad date" if they do not fit an a priori hypothesis."
T.A. Thompson, G.S.Fraser and G. Olyphant, "Establishing the altitude and age of past lake levels in the Great Lakes," Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1988, 20(5) p. 392

"In the light what is known about the radiocarbon method and the way it is used, it is truly astonishing that many authors will cite agreeable determinations as a "proof" for their beliefs. The implications of pervasive contamination and ancient variations in carbon-14 levels are steadfastly ignored by those who based their argument upon the dates. The radiocarbon method is still not capable of yielding accurate and reliable results. There are gross discrepancies, the chronology is uneven and relative, and the accepted dates are actually selected dates. ’This whole blessed thing is nothing but 13th-century alchemy, and it all depends upon which funny paper you read’."
Robert E. Lee, Radiocarbon: Ages in Error, Anthropological Journal of Canada, Vol 19, No 4 (1981) pp. 9-29

"C-14 dating was being discussed at a symposium on the prehistory of the Nile Valley. A famous American colleague, professor Brew, briefly summarized a common attitude among archaeologists towards it as follows: 'If a C 14 date supports our theories, we put it in the main text. If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in a footnote. And if it is completely out of date, we just drop it.' Few archaelogists who have concerned themselves with absolute chronology are innocent of having sometimes applied this method, and many are still hesitant to accept C 14 dates without reservation."
T. Säve-Söderbergh and Ingrid U. Olsson, "C14 Dating and Egyptian Chronology," in Ingrid U. Olsson (ed.) Proceedings of the Twelfth Nobel Symposium. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc and Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1970

"The Carbon-14 contents of the shells of the snails of Melanoides tuberculatus living today in artesian springs in
southern Nevada indicate an apparent age of 27,000 years."

Alan C. Riggs, Science, vol 224 (1984) 58-61


Change in Decay Rates

QuestionI have been reading your paper Atomic Constants, Light and Time and I have a question.  What do you mean by the statement below near the end of the paper, under the heading of references. Why do you reduce all units to unity?  I don't understand what you are doing here and the reason for it. Do you mean you are changing the decay constants to unity?

"19, 20: l = radioactive decay constants. All units reduced to unity. In this case METH. column refers to the number of elements only."

Setterfield:  What I have shown there is the change in the decay rate over time.  I have a number of decay rates, and they are all showing a consistent rate of change.  In once case you may have a change in one part in 7000 years, and in another perhaps 2 parts in 14,000 years.  So what I have done is reduce all these rates of change to a common ratio to show comparisons with other ratios of other atomic quantities.

Comment: Thanks for the explanation. As for the half-lives that you used, all of them will have an uncertainty, sometimes a considerable uncertainty in the value.  It is unclear how you have handled this uncertainty.  In any case, it does not seem to me that you have strong evidence of a changing half-life.

Setterfield:  Thank you for your response. There may be some uncertainty in the radiometric measurements.  However, I believe that an "in principle" case has been established from the behaviour of the other atomic quantities mentioned in the Report. If these are behaving in the way that the observational evidence suggests, then it follows from the physics of the situation that the radiometric data will behave in a concordant fashion.  The data do not negate that proposition.


Atomic Ages

From a friend:  I am however having mental difficulty understanding the 14 billion year atomic age principle. I cannot grasp the math constant in principle to solve for that. But I am working on it.

Setterfield:  With your background in electronics etc, you will be able to appreciate the groundwork that has been done in my article on plasma physics and the way that it is affected by the Zero Point Energy. When the ZPE was lower, the electric and magnetic properties of the vacuum were different and all plasma interactions were accomplished much more quickly. Plasma physics has shown how all galaxy types along with their stars have formed by the interaction of plasma filaments. We can time these interactions in the laboratory, then upscale them to inter-galactic interactions and get the time frame there. Then when the change in the ZPE is factored in, a whole universe can be formed in about 4 days. The complete groundwork for this has been laid down in my article on "Reviewing a Plasma Universe with Zero Point Energy".

What may also help is our material regarding the first two days of creation in our study on Genesis 1 - 11.

As far as the 14 billion years of astronomy are concerned and the related 4.5 billion years of geology, let me try to help your understanding. As the ZPE strength increases, space becomes "thicker" because increasing numbers of virtual particle pairs are being formed in any given volume of the vacuum. These particle pairs inhibit the progression of light photons and atomic processes slow down. The increased ZPE means an increase in the mass of all sub-atomic particles as outlined in the article that you have just read. But energy is conserved in atomic processes, including kinetic energy. Thus when electron masses increase, since their orbital kinetic energy is constant, their orbital velocity slows down. This is one form of atomic clock, namely the rate of revolution of electrons in their atomic orbits. Another is the various forms of radiometric clock. Thus alpha decay occurs when an alpha particle escapes from the nucleus. Within the nucleus the alpha particle may be considered to be moving in some kind of orbital. The velocity of the alpha particle is the crucial thing here as it can be considered to be hitting the walls of the nuclear potential well a number of times per second. There is a finite probability that the alpha particle will escape, and this probability depends on the number of hits against the wall that it has made. Obviously, if the speed of the alpha particle is higher, there will be more hits per second and so the escape rate will also be higher. The speed of the alpha particle is again related to the constant kinetic energy. Therefore, earlier in the history of the universe when the particle mass was lower, the velocity will be higher, with a proportionally higher escape rate. Thus the radiometric clock was ticking faster back then.

If you are concerned about the mathematical function that the ZPE is following in its increase, or its inverse (which gives the behavior of the speed of light and the rate of ticking of the various atomic clocks), then the reasoning goes along the following lines. As the mass of subatomic particles increases with increasing ZPE, the radius of any given atomic orbit will change. This happens because, as shown by Bohr's first equation for the orbiting electron, each orbit has a given amount of angular momentum which is proportional to Planck's constant, h. As the strength of the ZPE increases, so, too, does h. But angular momentum must be conserved in this process. In order for this to occur, the orbit radius must change. This change causes the light emitted from each atom to be more energetic or bluer. Thus as we look back in time to progressively more distant objects (that is objects whose light was emitted progressively earlier and earlier in the history of the cosmos), their light will be progressively redder. To astronomers, this is known as the redshift. This ZPE process has two possibilities; either it happened smoothly (in which case we would get a smoothly changing redshift), or it happened in jumps (so the redshift would be quantized). Observation indicates that the second option is the one which is occurring. The evidence is all there that the redshift is quantized, but astronomers have been ignoring this for some considerable time because it knocks out one of the two legs which support the Big Bang proposition. The only viable alternative, that was mentioned by John Gribbin, was that the redshift must be due to the behavior of atomic emitters within the various galaxies. This is the option which our research has validated.

 On this basis then, the redshift provides data describing the behavior of atomic clocks and lightspeed. The redshift/distance equation is therefore the same equation as the speed of light and atomic clock rates are following, while it inverse describes the behavior of the ZPE. The form of equation that I use is often used in astronomy. In this form, the distance, x,  is given as a fraction of the total distance which overcomes problems with determining an exact distance scale. In the form used for the behavior of light and atomic clocks, orbital time, T, has been substituted for distance, x, because distance and time are related. Again T is given as a fraction of the total time that the process has been operating.

But we can go further! Not only do we have the redshift equation empirically from the data, we can also obtain it theoretically from a consideration of the processes acting to produce the ZPE and there are several ways of doing this. Thus we have both observational data and theory to guide us as to the form of equation that the atomic clock rate has been following. We can then integrate that equation to find the (inflated) atomic time for any actual orbital time. When that is done the scenario for astronomy and geology really opens up. This is summarized with charts in Time, Life and Man.

This whole aspect of the research about atomic orbits and the redshift and its quantization and its relationship to the ZPE was discussed in detail in another of my papers published in December 2008 entitled "Quantized Redshifts and the Zero Point Energy."

Cesium 133

Question: If cesium133 is a stable isotope, how can it be affected by changes in the speed of light? Since it is stable, its time-keeping properties would be unchanged and therefore useful in detecting any changes in light speed.

Setterfield: First, let me mention that all the changes in atomic time keepers are due to the changes in the strength of the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) which controls the properties of the vacuum. Changes in these properties affect both atomic behavior and the speed of light uniformly, so they are both children of the same parent. It is not the speed of light in and of itself that produces these changes.

Second, SED physicists have shown that the ZPE controls all atomic orbit phenomena, whether the atom is stable or radioactive. Thus, for example, the rate at which an electron orbits a nucleus will decrease as the ZPE strength increases. The electron orbital rate is one form of atomic clock. In the case of radioactive atoms, processes in the nucleus can likewise be shown to be linked with ZPE behavior along with electron orbital phenomena.

So the answer to your question is that the orbital processes acting in the cesium 133 atom that are used as timekeepers (in a slightly more complicated way than the simple example given above) are themselves dependent upon the ZPE strength. So as the ZPE strength increases, each one of those processes will become slower.

As a result, the processes used in stable isotopes like cesium 133 to measure time will be of no use in detecting changes in the speed of light since both are being affected uniformly by the ZPE.

I trust that answers you question as simply as possible, yet gives you some understanding of what is happening.

Oldest Living Tree?

Question: The oldest living tree has been dated at 9,950 years old… (Ring age) -- how do you account for this?

Setterfield: Your question relates to what has been called the "oldest living tree", a Norway spruce living in Sweden that is claimed to be 9550 years old. Thanks for the link to the National Geographic article about it.

Careful reading reveals that Norway spruces send up a trunk which develops into a tree that lives for about 600 years and then dies back to the root. The root then sends out a new trunk and the process repeats. So they do not get the age of the tree by tree-rings from the trunk or branches. Neither do they get the age of the root by any tree-ring process. The article explicitly states that they find the age of the root by carbon-dating. They state that while the bristlecone pines in the USA are dated by tree-rings, the Norway pines are dated by the radio-carbon process. Here is the exact quote:

Bristlecone pines are aged by counting tree rings, which form annually within their trunks. But in the case of the Norway spruce, ancient remnants of its roots were radiocarbon dated. The study team also identified other ancient spruces in Sweden that were between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.

So the tree is not 9550 orbital years old, but 9550 atomic years old. Even that may be unreliable because of the problems that are inherent in radio-carbon dating. So the oldest living tree is still the bristlecone pine. The article states that: "Trees much older than 9,550 years would be impossible in Sweden, because ice sheets covered the country until the end of the last Ice Age around 11,000 years ago, Kullman noted." Since the ice-age ended around 2400-2500 BC in actual orbital time, these Norway spruces are no older than that.