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Dr. Andrew A.

Snelling
Education
PhD, Geology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 1982
BSc, Applied Geology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney,
Australia, First Class Honours, 1975
Professional Experience

Field, mine, and research geologist, various mining companies,


Australia

, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation


(ANSTO), Consultant researcher and writer , Australia, 19831992

Geological consultant, Koongarra uranium project, Denison Australia PL, 19831992

Collaborative researcher and writer, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation


(CSIRO), Australia, 19811987

Professor of geology, Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, CA, 19982007

Staff member, Creation Science Foundation (later Answers in GenesisAustralia), Australia, 1983
1998

Founding editor, Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal (now Journal of Creation), 19841998

Researcher and editor, Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth (RATE), 19972005

Editor-in-chief, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism, 2008

Director of Research, Answers in Genesis, Petersburg, KY, 2007present

Professional Affiliations
Geological Society of Australia /Geological Society of America /Geological Association of Canada/
Mineralogical Society of America /Society of Economic Geologists /Society for Geology Applied to Mineral
Deposits / Creation Research Society /Creation Geology Society
Dr. Andrew A. Snelling is perhaps one of the world's leading researchers in flood geology.He worked for a
number of years in the mining industry throughout Australia undertaking mineral exploration surveys and field
research. He has also been a consultant research geologist for more than a decade to the Australian Nuclear
Science and Technology Organization and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for internationally
funded research on the geology and geochemistry of uranium ore deposits as analogues of nuclear waste
disposal sites..His primary research interests include radioisotopic methods for the dating of rocks, formation of
igneous and metamorphic rocks, and ore deposits. He is one of a controlled number permitted to take rock
samples from the Grand Canyon.He was also a founding member of the RATE group (Radioisotopes and the
Age of The Earth).
Andrew completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Geology with First Class Honours at The University
of New South Wales in Sydney, and graduated a Doctor of Philosophy (in geology) at The University of Sydney,
for his thesis entitled A geochemical study of the Koongarra uranium deposit, Northern Territory,
Australia. Between studies and since, Andrew worked for six years in the exploration and mining
industries in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory variously as a
field, mine and research geologist. Full-time with the Australian creation ministry from 1983 to 1998, he was
during this time also called upon as a geological consultant to the Koongarra uranium project (19831992).
Consequently, he was involved in research projects with various CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation), ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)
and University scientists across Australia, and with scientists from the USA, Britain, Japan, Sweden and the
International Atomic Energy Agency. As a result of this research, Andrew was involved in writing scientific
papers that were published in international scientific journals.Andrew has been involved in extensive
creationist research in Australia and overseas, including the formation of all types of mineral deposits,
radioactivity in rocks and radioisotopic dating, and the formation of metamorphic and igneous rocks,
sedimentary strata and landscape features (e.g. Grand Canyon, USA, and Ayers Rock, Australia) within the
creation framework for earth history. As well as writing regularly and extensively in international creationist
publications, Andrew has travelled around Australia and widely overseas (USA, UK, New Zealand, South Africa,
Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China) speaking in schools, churches, colleges and universities, particularly on
the overwhelming scientific evidence consistent with the Global Flood and the Creation.

THE RADIOMETRIC DATING

Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth 4


Radiometric Dating: Back to Basics 9
Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions ..11
Radiometric Dating: Making Sense of the Patterns .13
Radioactive Dating Failure Recent New Zealand Lava Flows Yield Ages of Millions of Years ...14
Radioactive Dating Method Under Fire 16
RATE Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth .19
U-Th-Pb Dating: An Example of False Isochrons 20
The Failure of U-Th-Pb Dating at Koongarra, Australia .25
Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Rubidium-87 (87Rb) ..43
***

CARBON DATING

Carbon-14 Dating Understanding the Basics 50


Carbon-14 in Fossils and Diamonds An Evolution Dilemma ...51
A Creationist Puzzle 50,000-Year-Old-Fossils ..53
Measurable 14C in Fossilized Organic Materials: Conrming the Young Earth Creation-Flood Model 54
Radiocarbon Ages for Fossil Ammonites and Wood in Cretaceous Strata near Redding, California ..63
Radiocarbon in Diamonds Confirmed ..71
Geological Conflict Young Radiocarbon Date for Ancient Fossil Wood Challenges Fossil Dating.72
Radiocarbon in an ancient fossil tree stump casts doubt on traditional rock/fossil dating ....75

Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Lutetium-176 (176Lu).76

***
Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Rhenium-187 (187Re)85
Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Samarium-147 (147Sm).95

DATING RESULTS

Significance of Highly Discordant Radioisotope Dates for Precambrian Amphibolites in Grand Canyon, USA
..105
Whole-Rock K-Ar Model and Isochron, and Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb Isochron, Dating of the Somerset
Dam Layered Mafic Intrusion, Australia
..117
Radioisotopes in the Diabase Sill (Upper Precambrian) at Bass Rapids, Grand Canyon, Arizona An
Application and Test of the Isochron Dating Method
.130
Discordant Potassium-Argon Model and Isochron Ages for Cardenas Basalt (Middle Proterozoic) and
Associated Diabase of Eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona
..140
The Relevance of Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb Isotope Systematics to Elucidation of the Genesis and History of
Recent Andesite Flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, and the Implications for Radioisotopic Da
.150
The Cause of Anomalous Potassium-Argon Ages for Recent Andesite Flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New
Zealand, and the Implications for Potassium-Argon Dating
.161
The Fallacies of Radioactive Dating of Rocks Basalt Lava Flows in Grand Canyon .172
Radioisotope Dating of Rocks in the Grand Canyon 174
Radioisotope Dating of Rocks in the Grand Canyon 175
Radioactive Dating in Conflict! Fossil Wood in Ancient Lava Flow Yields Radiocarbon 178
The age of Australian Uranium A case study of the Koongarra uranium deposit .179
Helium Diffusion Rates Support Accelerated Nuclear Decay ..183

METEORS

Radioisotope Dating of Meteorites: I 195


Radioisotope Dating of Meteorites: II ..239
Radioisotope Dating of Meteorites: III ..277

Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth


by Dr. Russell Humphreys, Dr. Steve Austin, Dr. Don DeYoung, Eugene Chafn, Dr. Andrew A. Snelling, and Dr. John
Baumgardneron March 9, 2011
Abstract
RATE is an acronym applied to a research project investigating
radioisotope dating sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research
and the Creation Research Society. It stands for Radioisotopes and
the Age of The Earth. This article summarizes the purpose, history,
and intermediate findings of the RATE project five years into an eightyear effort. It reports on the latest status of the research on helium
diffusion through minerals in granitic rock, accelerated nuclear decay theory, radiohalos, isochron discordance studies, case
studies in rock dating, and carbon-14 in deep geologic strata. Each of the RATE scientists will present separate technical
papers at the Fifth International Conference on Creationism on the details of this research.
Keywords: radioisotopes, isotopes, age, dating, nuclear decay, accelerated nuclear decay
This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, pp.337348
(2003) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh (www.csfpittsburgh.
org).
Introduction
The conventional scientific view typically expressed today is that the earth is about 4.6 billion years old and the universe
between 10 and 20 billion years old. These estimates are based primarily on the abundances of parent and daughter
radioisotopes and the implications of stellar and cosmological models. Yet, a literal interpretation of Scripture and much
scientific evidence has been gathered to indicate that the creation of the earth, the solar system, and the universe occurred
only a few thousand years ago.One of the principal forces which has traditionally driven estimates of an old age for the earth
is the necessity for long periods of time for evolution. Even before radioactivity was discovered in the 1890s, estimates of
the age of the earth were growing longer and longer as the complex nature of life became more evident. However, it has
never been demonstrated that the evolution of life from inorganic chemicals has occurred or that life has evolved from
simple life forms to the complex ones we see today. Living systems, even the simplest ones, are based upon symbolic
language structures of extreme complexity. There is no hint in the laws of chemistry and physics that matter on its own can
ever generate symbolic language regardless of the time allowed. Because it has no solution to this fundamental difficulty,
evolutionary dogma is now facing a major crisis that long periods of time simply cannot mend.Young-earth creationists on
the other hand are not convinced that long periods of time have transpired since the origin of the earthand some include
the origin of the entire universe. In defending a young-earth position, they typically point to important assumptions
underlying these dating schemes. For example, when a parent isotope decays into a daughter isotope, the initial
concentration of the daughter isotope may affect the estimate of time since the process started. Creationists in some cases
question the conventional assumption that the initial amount of daughter product is small or at least can be tightly
constrained. Isochron methods attempt to remove this uncertainty, but the results are not wholly satisfactory. Also often
questioned by creationists are the assumptions that the quantities of the parent and daughter isotopes have not been
altered by non-radioactive processes such as migration and transport, and that the rate of decay from parent to daughter
has been constant during the period under consideration. Most researchers attempt to justify each of these three
assumptions, but ultimately no one can be certain if the conditions have been met, particularly over long periods of time.
It is hypothesized by the RATE group that at some time in the past much higher rates of radioisotope decay have occurred,
leading to the production of large quantities of daughter products in a short period of time. It has been suggested that these
increased decay rates may have been associated with the rock-forming processes on the early earth.The RATE group
suspects that large amounts of radioactive decay may have occurred during the first two and a half days of creation as part
of the supernatural creation process. The jury is still out and, until we complete our research phase, this thesis remains
tentative. The presence of supernatural process during creation is essential to our approach, however. Scripture talks of at
least two major events which occurred after creation, the Judgment in the Garden of Eden and the Flood. It would seem
appropriate to consider at least that an original distribution of elements could have been mixed, and radioactive processes
speeded up during one or both of these events.
History of the RATE Project
On July 5, 1997 a group of young-earth creationist researchers met in San Diego, California to address the issue of
reconciling radioisotopes and the age of the earth as reported by Vardiman.1 It was recognized by the group that this was a
significant problem which must be addressed if young-earth creationism was to continue to have a significant impact on the
issue of origins both within and outside the creation community. The group, which has since become known as RATE,
decided that the primary approach would be to explore accelerated rates of decay of radioisotopes during one or more of
the Creation, Fall, and Flood events. A second approach would be to address the mixing of mantle and crustal reservoirs
since the origin of the earth. Additional processes and issues have been suggested and explored as part of the research.
The focus of the RATE research would be primarily on long-age isotopes and their use as chronometers.By February, 2003
six annual meetings of RATE had been held by the principal investigators. These meetings included reports, discussion,
allocation of funds, and research decisions. During the third meeting thirteen research experiments were identified as shown
in Tables 1 and 2. A brief description of each experiment, expected results, the estimated cost, and estimated time were
developed. At the annual meeting in 2001 the importance to this project of 14C in deeply buried fossil material was identified,
and a research thrust on this topic was added. The cost of the eight-year project was estimated to be about $500,000.
Before 2002 about 80% of these funds had been raised through private donations. Two major reports were planned for
RATE. The first report, a 675-page book was published in December 2000 entitled, Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth:
A Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative. It contains an introduction to the project, a report on the literature searches by
the principal investigators on most of the topics of concern, a glossary, and a set of research proposals. The purpose of the
initial report was to stake a claim. It was also published to lend structure and direction to the effort and to inform contributors
about what they could expect from their donations. The second and final book is planned to be published in 2005 and is

expected to be titled Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: A Young-Earth Creationist Research Report. It will report on
the findings of the five-year research phase.
Intermediate Results of RATE Research
Helium DiffusionDr. D. Russell Humphreys, PI
Two decades ago, it was reported by Gentry, Glish, and McBay2 that up to 58% of the helium (a daughter product of
uranium and thorium decay) generated during the alleged 1.5 billion year age of the Precambrian granodiorite beneath the
Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos, New Mexico, was still in the zircons embedded in the biotite crystals contained within
the granodiorite. Yet, the zircons were so small (see Fig. 1 for a picture of typical zircons) that they should not have retained
the helium for even a small fraction of that time. The high retentions suggest to us and many other creationists that the
helium has not had time to diffuse out of the zirconsthat accelerated nuclear decay produced over a billion years worth of
helium only thousands of years ago. Such accelerated decay could reduce the radiometric timescale from gigayears down
to months.A theoretical creationist model, based on observed helium retention, of diffusion rates of helium over a period of
6,000 years was reported by Humphreys3 and Humphreys et al.4). It compares well with laboratory measurements in Jemez
zircons, as shown in Fig. 2. The solid dots show the diffusion coefficient as a function of inverse temperature for the
measurements with the Jemez zircons and the solid lines through empty squares show the theoretical predictions from the
theoretical model. There is a five-order-of-magnitude difference (100,000) between the predictions of diffusion for the
evolutionist and creationist models. The measured diffusion rates of He predict that helium would leak out of a zircon/biotite
matrix in a period of time on the order of thousands of years, not hundreds of millions of years. This is consistent with the
high concentrations of helium still found in the Jemez granodiorite.
Table 1. High priority RATE experiments.
Experiment

Description

Expected Results

Time

He Diffusion

Acquisition of data on which to base a claim that the


amount of He in rocks today should not be so high if it was
produced by nuclear decay over millions of years. If the He
Determine He diffusion rates throughwas produced within the most recent thousands of years, it
minerals under various conditions
would be expected to remain still in the rocks as observed. 2 years

Isochron
Discordance

Increased evidence for discordance among isotopic dating


methods using isochrons for mineral components of FloodConstruct 5-point mineral and whole-rockrelated rocks. Based on the consistency of the discordance
isochrons on selected basaltic rocksfrom these specimens and others, infer the processes
formed during the Flood
which led to the distribution of isotopes.
2 years

Conduct a literature search for evidence


and models of accelerated nuclear decayIncrease evidence that nuclear decay can vary radically in
and adapt to a creationist worldview, if response to changes in cosmological constants and
Nuclear
appropriate. Complete studies on a and benvironmental effects. Associate other likely effects with
Decay Theory decay.
biblical statements and observational data.
2 years

Radiohalos

Determine the geological distribution of Resolve the question if Po halos are special evidence for
Po
halos,
their
proximity
tocreated rocks only , or could they also occur in Flood rocks.
concentrations of U and the relationshipThis effort may also allow inferences about the process of
to different halo types.
radioisotope decay and halo formation.
5 years

Fission
Tracks

Estimate nuclear decay rates during theFission track estimates of nuclear decay rates are thought
Flood using the fission track method.to be absolute following rock formation and do not inherit
Select an initial sample from a tuff bed in prior evidence of decay. It is important to know if decay
the Muav Formation of Grand Canyon. rates were accelerated during the Flood.
2 years

Additional laboratory measurements and modeling studies of helium diffusion in zircon are expected to lead to a further
refinement of the creationist model. The data of Fig. 2 indicate an age between 4,000 and 14,000 years since the helium
began to diffuse from the zircons. This is far short of the 1.5 billion year evolutionist age! We believe that the final results will
resoundingly support our hypothesis concerning diffusion and radiogenic helium.
Table 2. Lower priority RATE experiments.
Experiment
Uranium
Halos

Time (years)
(U)/Thorium

(Th)
4

Case Studies in Rock Dating

Biblical Word Studies

Pu in OKLO Reactor

Allende Meteorite Origin

Diffusion of Ar in Biotite

Origin of Chemical Elements

Cosmology and Nuclear Decay

Search for Carbon-14 *

* Added in 2001
Nuclear Decay TheoryDr. Eugene F. Chaffin, PI

Fig. 1. Zircons from the Muav Tuff, Grand Canyon, Arizona


(Courtesy of Geotrack International Laboratory).

The quantum theory of alpha and beta decay are being reviewed by Chaffin,5,6 with extensions of the standard models
being explored to see if they could lead to accelerated decay during episodic variations of the coupling constants. Variations
in the radii of compactified extra dimensions and consequent variation in coupling constants over the history of the universe
could cause accelerated decay. If, during early Creation Week, say the first 2+ days before the creation of plants, such
variations were to occur, they could lead to accelerated nuclear decay, thus adjusting isotopic abundances, without giving
unacceptable doses of radiation to life.Grasses, herbs, and fruit

trees which could have been damaged by high radiation.


Fig. 2. Plot of diffusion coefficient of He in zircon vs. inverse temperature.
Fig. 3. Plot of nuclear potential energy vs. radial distance from the center of a nucleus.
These variations may help explain the abundances of radioisotopes, including radioactive equilibrium found in decay chains
such as the uranium series, within the young-earth time frame. We are also exploring the tunneling theory of alpha decay to
see how much change in half-life is possible without drastically affecting other measurable properties of nuclei. For only
slight changes in the depth of the nuclear potential well (see Fig. 3), abrupt changes in the number of nodes of the alpha
particle wave function occur which can lead to drastic changes in half-life. Also, the half-life depends exponentially on the
shape of the potential well, so that even slight changes are effective in accelerating alpha-decay. PIThe significance of
radiohalos is due to the fact they represent a physical, integral historical record of the decay of radioisotopes in the
radiocenters over a period of time as discussed by Snelling7 and Snelling and Armitage.8 The darkening of the minerals
surrounding the radiocenters is caused by damage to their crystal structure by alpha particles produced by nuclear decay.
As part of a systematic effort to investigate radiohalo occurrences in granitic rocks globally and throughout the geologic
record, suitable samples have been collected from the La Posta (southern California), Stone Mountain (near Atlanta,
Georgia) and Cooma (southern New South Wales, Australia) plutons.
Fig. 4. Number of radiohalos vs. type and location.
The biotite crystals in all these granites contain
abundant 238U, 210Po, and 214Po radiohalos. The occurrence
ratio is approximately five 210Po radiohalos for every 214Po
and 238U radiohalo, which occur roughly in equal numbers
except in the Cooma pluton (see Fig. 4). While these
radiohalos are homogeneously distributed throughout the
mineralogically uniform Stone Mountain pluton, they are
almost exclusively concentrated in the muscovite-biotite
granodiorite core of the La Posta pluton. Furthermore,
there are four to five times more of all these radiohalos in
the associated late-stage, Indian Hills granite (southern
California).Hydrothermal fluids are invariably concentrated
in the last liquid phases during the rapid convective
cooling of granite plutons as discussed by Snelling and
Woodmorappe,9 so this pattern of radiohalo occurrence in
the La Posta pluton and Indian Hills granite strongly
suggests that the Po radiohalos have formed as a result of
late hydrothermal fluid transport of Po radioisotopes locally
within the biotite flakes separating them from their
parent 238U in the zircons.The Cooma granite was
produced by partial melting at the center of a regional
metamorphic complex. Thus, this research has the
potential to demonstrate that both the cooling of granite
plutons and regional metamorphism occurred within
weeks to months, not over millions of years, because of
the short half-life of 218Po. Radiohalo occurrences in other
granitic plutons at many levels in the geologic record are
also under continuing investigation.
Isochron DiscordanceDr. Steven A. Austin, PI
Field observations, petrographic study, and geochemical
analysis by Snelling, Austin, and Hoesch10 indicate that a
95-meter-thick sill in sharp contact with the intruded
Hakatai shale near Bass Rapids in Grand Canyon was
well mixed isotopically when emplaced. However, after

intrusion, it segregated mineralogically and chemically by crystal settling. Such a condition of thorough isotopic mixing
followed by rapid chemical segregation is ideally suited to test the assumptions that underlie whole-rock and mineral
isochron dating. Both creationists and evolutionists should accept the well-mixed initial isotopic condition of the original
magma body.
Fig. 5. Isochron age vs. half-life and mode of decay.
New K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotope data from eleven whole-rock samples (eight diabase, three granophyre)
and six mineral phases separated from one of the whole-rock diabase samples yield discordant whole-rock and mineral
isochron ages. These isochron ages range from 842164Ma (whole-rock K-Ar) to 1375170Ma (mineral Sm-Nd). (See
Fig. 5 for a graph of the isochron age versus half-life and type of decay for each of the four radioisotope systems
investigated.) Although significant discordance exists between the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotope methods,
each method appears to yield concordant ages internally between whole rocks and minerals. Internal concordance is best
illustrated by the Rb-Sr whole-rock and mineral isochron ages of 105546Ma and 105948Ma, respectively. It is,
therefore, argued that only changing radioisotope decay rates in the past could account for these discordant isochron ages
for the same geologic event. Furthermore, these data are consistent with alpha decay having been accelerated more than
beta decay, and with a greater acceleration factor for a greater present half-life.
Case Studies in Rock DatingDr. Andrew A. Snelling, PI
Snelling11,12 earlier reported having obtained K-Ar model ages for recent andesites collected from Mt. Ngauruhoe in New
Zealand. Dates of less than 0.27 to 3.5Ma could not be reproduced, even from splits of the same samples from the same
flow, the explanation being variations in the 40Ar* (radiogenic 40Ar) content in excess of the zero-age amount. It was
concluded that this excess 40Ar* had been inherited by these magmas during their genesis in the upper mantle.
Two samples from each of the lava flows and deposits have now been analyzed for Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb isotopes.
Together with the trace and rare earth element analyses, they further elucidate the petrogenetic history of these andesites,
including crustal components which may have contaminated originally pure basalt magmas. Whereas valid isochron ages
cannot be obtained from this isotopic data except by subjective manipulation, depleted mantle Nd model ages of 8011594
Ma and positive Nd(to) values suggest the original basalt magmas were generated from partial melting of the residual solids
in old depleted upper mantle, while the large positive Sr(to) values and the 87Sr/86Sr ratios suggest contamination during their
ascent with basement greywackes to produce the andesite magmas. Consequently, evidence continues to accumulate that
systematic mixing of mantle and crustal sources makes it nearly impossible to obtain unambiguous radioisotopic results in
these environments.

Fig. 6. Petrogenetic model of melt formation near a subducting slab, based on Tatsumi17 and Davies and
Stevenson.18 Mixing and inheritance of radioisotopes invalidate conventional age dating.
The petrogenetic model therefore favored by Gamble et al.,13 which is consistent with all the isotopic data discussed in
Snelling,14 and shown in Fig. 6, is based on Tatsumi15 and Davies and Stevenson.16 This model envisages a zone of melt
formation approximately coincident to the volcanic front, which includes Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, and a melt generation
region delimited by the interface of the subducting slab, the base of the arc lithosphere (of continental New Zealand) and
two vertical columns, one delineating the volcanic front, the other, the coupled back-arc basin. Fluids liberated from the
descending slab ascend into and enrich the overlying periodite down to higher pressures, where the amphibole breaks down
giving rise to amphibole dehydration, while progressive dehydration reactions in the slab itself lead to fluid transfer from the
slab into the mantle wedge, both processes producing partial melting as amphibole breaks down over the depth range 112
19km as discussed by Tatsumi19 and Davies and Stevenson.20 The lower density melt then rises and pools in the
upwelling melt column, eventually penetrating upwards into the overlying arc lithosphere to fill magma chambers that then

erupt when full.The Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic ratios in the samples of this study of recent (19491975)
andesite lava flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, as anticipated, do not yield any meaningful age information, even by
selective manipulation of the data. Instead, these data provide evidence of the mantle source, of magma genesis, and of the
crustal contamination of the parental basalt magmas. By implication, the radioisotopic ratios in ancient lavas found
throughout the geologic record must similarly express the fundamental characteristics of their geochemistry. They therefore
must also strongly reflect the magmatic origin of the lavas from mantle and crustal sources and any history of mixing or
contamination in their petrogenesis which can dramatically distort any inferred isotopic age. Even though radioisotopic
decay has undoubtedly occurred during the earths history, conventional radioisotopic dating of these rocks therefore cannot
provide valid absolute ages for them. This is especially so if accelerated nuclear decay accompanied the catastrophic
geologic and tectonic processes responsible for the mixing of the radioisotopic decay products during magma genesis.
Fifteen rock samples have also been collected from the Somerset Dam gabbro intrusion near Brisbane, Australia
(Snelling21), probably a well-preserved, unmetamorphosed subvolcanic magma chamber. The samples were processed
and submitted to various laboratories for whole-rock major and trace element analyses and for K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and PbPb radioisotopic analyses. Additionally, one of the gabbro samples from one of the cyclic units was separated into its mineral
constituents using heavy liquids, and the resultant plagioclase, augite, olivine, and magnetite-ilmenite concentrates, along
with a duplicate piece of the whole-rock, submitted for K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic analyses.
The objective of this study was not only to compare the different dating methods, but also to compare whole-rock and
mineral isochron ages and to test whether there are variations in the radioisotopes between the cyclic units, and between
the macrolayers within them. From these studies it may be possible to infer how mixing occurs in a magma chamber and
demonstrate that radioisotopic compositions of crustal rock may reflect characteristics of the magma sources in the mantle
rather than the ages of the intrusion.
Significant Amounts of 14C in Deep StrataDr. John R. Baumgardner, PI
Fig. 7. Distribution of 14C values for biogenic samples
from the radiocarbon literature. Given their position
in the geological record, all these samples should
contain no detectable 14C according to the
conventional geological timescale.
Fig. 8. Histogram representation of AMS14C analysis
of ten coal samples undertaken by the RATE 14C
research project.
According to the conventional geologic time-scale,
organic materials older than about 250,000 years
should be utterly 14C dead. This is because the
half-life of 14C, only 5,730 years, is so short. 250,000
years of decay (corresponding to 43.6 half-lives)
reduces the number of initial14C atoms by a factor of
710-14. A gram of modern carbon contains about 6
1010 14C atoms, so not a single 14C atom should
remain after 250,000 years. The astonishing result,
however, is that, almost without exception, when
tested by accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS)
methods, organic samples from every portion of the
Phanerozoic record show detectable and
reproducible amounts of 14C! This reality has been
established as dozens of AMS laboratories around
the world over the last 20 years have sought
desperately to understand why organic samples
from deep within the geological record, thought to
be tens to hundreds of millions of years old, should
consistently contain 0.10.5% of the modern level
of 14C. Believing this 14C had to be contamination,
they have mounted an intense quest to identify and
eliminate sources of contamination in their AMS
procedures. But despite improvements in
techniques, this level of 14C, on the order of 0.10.5
percent modern carbon (pmc), continues to be
reported for samples that, given their location in the
geological record, should be entirely 14C dead.
Many scores of such measurements are readily
available
in
the
standard
peer-reviewed
radiocarbon
literature
as
documented
by
Giem22 and Baumgardner et al.23 and displayed in Fig. 7. Measurable 14C at roughly uniform values in pre-Flood organic
materials fossilized in Flood strata, of course, represents powerful support for the young earth Creation-Flood model.Aware
of this, Snelling24,25,26,27,28 analyzed the 14C content of fossilized wood conventionally regarded as 14C dead because it
was derived from Tertiary, Mesozoic, and upper Paleozoic strata having conventional ages of 40 to 250 million years. All
samples were analyzed using AMS technology by a reputable commercial laboratory, with some duplicate samples also
tested by a specialist laboratory in a major research institute. Measurable 14C well above background was obtained in all
cases.More recently, as a check on the AMS results in the peer-reviewed literature, the RATE team acquired a suite of ten
coal samples from the U.S. Department of Energy Coal Repository. These samples represent important U.S. coal deposits
and span the geological record from Carboniferous to Eocene. The 14C measurements by one of the best AMS laboratories
in the world for these ten samples are displayed in graphical form in Fig. 8 and discussed in Baumgardner et al.29 The 14C
levels for these samples fall nicely within the range of values shown in Fig. 7. We conclude that the well-documented
evidence of 14C in fossil organic material provides compelling support for the young earth Creation-Flood model and
represents a severe challenge for the uniformitarian assumptions underlying the long half-life radioisotope methods.
Tentative Conclusions

At this point in the RATE research several tentative conclusions are beginning to emerge, based on the literature searches,
theoretical studies, and laboratory findings. Although some are firmer than others, the following conclusions are likely to be
in the final report. There will likely also be additional conclusions which are too early to include at this time. The tentative
conclusions will only be reported here in outline form. More detail and justifications for most of these conclusions are
discussed in the referenced papers in these Proceedings.
Conventional radioisotope dating methods are unreliable.
Discordance among different dating methods is common.
Key assumptions underlying radioisotope dating methods are untenable.
Mixing of mantle and crustal sources also mixes their isotopic signatures.
Residual 14C appears to be present in all fossil biogenic material.
Massive nuclear decay has occurred in rocks.
Large quantities of daughter elements like Pb, He, and Ar are present.
Many of the daughter elements are in proximity to the parent elements.
Fission tracks and radiohalos are numerous.
Isotopic mixing between the earths mantle and crust has occurred.
Lava flows exhibit isotopic characteristics of the mantle.
Isotopic data suggest basalts were generated from melting of old mantle.
Isotopic data also suggest basalt magmas were contaminated during their ascent.
Residual He and radiohalos suggest recent nuclear decay.
Large quantities of He are still present in many granites today.
If He was formed millions of years ago, it should have already escaped.
Experimentally-determined diffusion rates of He agree with recent production of He.
Po halos appear to have formed during rapid cooling of granite plutons during the Flood (eliminating millions of years).
If the cooling of the plutons was rapid, then metamorphism was also rapid during the Flood (eliminating millions of years).
Massive nuclear decay, radiohalos, helium diffusion, and deep 14C all imply accelerated decay.
Massive nuclear decay requires higher decay rates before the present.
Radiohalos formed during the Flood require decay rates higher than observed today.
Helium diffusion data imply the decay occurred within thousands of years ago.
Deep 14C implies the decay occurred within thousands of years ago.
Studies in theoretical physics suggest accelerated nuclear decay can occur.
Variation in compactified dimensions could affect coupling constants.
Consequent variation in coupling constants could cause accelerated decay.
Changes in potential well depth change the -particle wave function.
Changes in the -particle wave function change decay half-lives.
Summary
The basic conclusion of this research is that conventional radioisotopic dating methods are unreliable. The chief reason is
that uniformitarianism is not a legitimate model of earth history. Observational evidence supports the recent occurrence of a
global catastrophic Flood. Because the earth has suffered a major tectonic catastrophe corresponding to the Flood, the
uniformitarian assumptions that are applied to obtain age estimates from radioisotopic data are simply not true. Intermediate
results from RATE support a young-earth, catastrophic, creationist model.Two remaining years in the research phase will be
needed to complete the analysis of samples yet being processed and theoretical studies still being made. By the end of the
research phase the final report should be based on a larger data set than was available for this paper. A few research
projects within RATE such as Fission Tracks and Biblical Word Studies that have not been discussed in this paper are also
expected to contribute to the final report. It is apparent that significant progress has been made in explaining the presence of
large quantities of nuclear decay products in a young-earth time frame. The evidence should be stronger and more
convincing by the time the research project is completed in 2005. We also hope that by then a more detailed young-earth
creationist model of the history of radioactive decay will also have been developed.
Radiometric Dating: Back to Basics
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on June 17, 2009; last featured February 19, 2014
Radiometric dating is often used to prove rocks
are millions of years old. Once you understand the
basic science, however, you can see how wrong
assumptions lead to incorrect dates.
Shop Now
Radiometric Dating 101
PART 1: Back to Basics
PART 2: Problems with the Assumptions
PART 3: Making Sense of the Patterns
This three-part series will help you properly understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates,
and the clues about what really happened in the past.
Most people think that radioactive dating has proven the earth is billions of years old. After all, textbooks, media, and
museums glibly present ages of millions of years as fact.
Yet few people know how radiometric dating works or bother to ask what assumptions drive the conclusions. So lets take a
closer look and see how reliable this dating method really is.
AtomsBasics We Observe Today
Each chemical element, such as carbon and oxygen, consists of atoms. Each atom is thought to be made up of three basic
parts.The nucleus contains protons (tiny particles each with a single positive electric charge) and neutrons (particles without
any electric charge). Orbiting around the nucleus are electrons (tiny particles each with a single negative electric charge).

The atoms of each element may vary slightly in the numbers of neutrons within their nuclei. These variations are called
isotopes of that element. While the number of neutrons varies, every atom of any element always has the same number of
protons and electrons.So, for example, every carbon atom contains six protons and six electrons, but the number of
neutrons in each nucleus can be six, seven, or even eight. Therefore, carbon has three isotopes (variations), which are
specified carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14 (Figure 1).
Radioactive Decay
Some isotopes are radioactive; that is, they are unstable because their nuclei are too large. To achieve stability, the atom
must make adjustments, particularly in its nucleus. In some cases, the isotopes eject particles, primarily neutrons and
protons. (These are the moving particles measured by Geiger counters and the like.) The end result is a stable atom, but of
a different chemical element (not carbon) because the atom now has a different number of protons and electrons.This
process of changing one element (designated as the parent isotope) into another element (referred to as the daughter
isotope) is called radioactive decay. The parent isotopes that decay are called radioisotopes.Actually, it isnt really a decay
process in the normal sense of the word, like the decay of fruit. The daughter atoms are not lesser in quality than the parent
atoms from which they were produced. Both are complete atoms in every sense of the word.Geologists regularly use five
parent isotopes to date rocks: uranium-238, uranium-235, potassium-40, rubidium-87, and samarium-147. These parent
radioisotopes change into daughter lead-206, lead-207, argon-40, strontium-87, and neodymium-143 isotopes, respectively.
Thus geologists refer to uranium-lead (two versions), potassium-argon, rubidium-strontium, or samarium-neodymium dates
for rocks. Note that the carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) method is not used to date rocks because most rocks do not contain
carbon.
Chemical Analysis of Rocks Today
Geologists cant use just any old rock for dating. They must find rocks that have the isotopes listed above, even if these
isotopes are present only in minute amounts. Most often, this is a rock body, or unit, that has formed from the cooling of
molten rock material (called magma). Examples are granites (formed by cooling under the ground) and basalts (formed by
cooling of lava at the earths surface).The next step is to measure the amount of the parent and daughter isotopes in a
sample of the rock unit. Specially equipped laboratories can do this with accuracy and precision. So, in general, few people
quarrel with the resulting chemical
analyses.It is the interpretation of
these chemical analyses that
raises potential problems. To
understand how geologists read
the age of a rock from these
chemical analyses, lets use the
analogy of an hourglass clock
(Figure 2).
In an hourglass, grains of fine
sand fall at a steady rate from the
top bowl to the bottom. After one
hour, all the sand has fallen into
the bottom bowl. So, after only half
an hour, half the sand should be in
the top bowl, and the other half
should be in the bottom bowl.
Suppose that a person did not
observe when the hourglass was
turned over. He walks into the
room when half the sand is in the
top bowl, and half the sand is in
the bottom bowl. Most people
would assume that the clock
started half an hour earlier.
By way of analogy, the sand
grains in the top bowl represent
atoms of the parent radioisotope
(uranium-238, potassium-40, etc.)
(Figure 2). The falling sand
represents radioactive decay, and
the sand at the bottom represents
the daughter isotope (lead-206,
argon-40, etc).
When a geologist tests a rock
sample, he assumes all the
daughter atoms were produced by
the decay of the parent since the
rock formed. So if he knows the
rate at which the parent decays,
he can calculate how long it took
for the daughter (measured in the
rock today) to form.
But what if the assumptions are
wrong? For example, what if
radioactive material was added to
the top bowl or if the decay rate
has changed? Future articles will
explore the assumptions that can

lead to incorrect dates and how the creation model helps us make better sense of the patterns of radioactive dates we find
in the rocks today.

Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions


by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on October 1, 2009; last featured August 4, 2010
Radiometric dating is often used to prove rocks are
millions of years old. Once you understand the basic
science, however, you can see how wrong
assumptions lead to incorrect dates.
Radiometric Dating 101
PART 1: Back to Basics
PART 2: Problems with the Assumptions
PART 3: Making Sense of the Patterns
This three-part series will help you properly
understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates, and the clues about what really happened in
the past.Most people think that radioactive dating has proven the earth is billions of years old. Yet this view is based on a
misunderstanding of how radiometric dating works. Part 1 (in the previous issue) explained how scientists observe unstable
atoms changing into stable atoms in the present. Part 2 explains how scientists run into problems when they make
assumptions about what happened in the unobserved past.
The Hourglass ClockAn Analogy for Dating Rocks
An hourglass is a helpful analogy to explain how geologists calculate the ages of rocks. When we look at sand in an
hourglass, we can estimate how much time has passed based on the amount of sand that has fallen to the bottom.
Radioactive rocks offer a similar clock. Radioactive atoms, such as uranium (the parent isotopes), decay into stable atoms,
such as lead (the daughter isotopes), at a measurable rate. To date a radioactive rock, geologists first measure the sand
grains in the top glass bowl (the parent radioisotope, such as uranium-238 or potassium-40).They also measure the sand
grains in the bottom bowl (the daughter isotope, such as lead-206 or argon-40, respectively). Based on these observations
and the known rate of radioactive decay, they estimate the time it has taken for the daughter isotope to accumulate in the
rock.However, unlike the hourglass whose accuracy can be tested by turning it upside down and comparing it to trustworthy
clocks, the reliability of the radioactive clock is subject to three unprovable assumptions. No geologist was present when
the rocks were formed to see their contents, and no geologist was present to measure how fast the radioactive clock has
been running through the millions of years that supposedly passed after the rock was formed.
Assumption 1: Conditions at Time Zero
No geologists were present when most rocks formed, so they cannot test whether the original rocks already contained
daughter isotopes alongside their parent radioisotopes. For example, with regard to the volcanic lavas that erupted, flowed,
and cooled to form rocks in the unobserved past, evolutionary geologists simply assume that none of the daughter argon-40
atoms was in the lava rocks.For the other radioactive clocks, it is assumed that by analyzing multiple samples of a rock
body, or unit, today it is possible to determine how much of the daughter isotopes (lead, strontium, or neodymium) were
present when the rock formed (via the so-called isochron technique, which is still based on unproven assumptions 2 and 3).
Yet lava flows that have occurred in the present have been tested soon after they erupted, and they invariably contained
much more argon-40 than expected.1 For example, when a sample of the lava in the Mt. St. Helens crater (that had been
observed to form and cool in 1986) (Figure 1) was analyzed in 1996, it contained so much argon-40 that it had a calculated
age of 350,000 years!2 Similarly, lava flows on the sides of Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand (Figure 2), known to be less than
50 years old, yielded ages of up to 3.5 million years.3

Click here to view larger picture (PDF format).


So it is logical to conclude that if recent lava flows of known age yield incorrect old potassium-argon ages due to the extra
argon-40 that they inherited from the erupting volcanoes, then ancient lava flows of unknown ages could likewise have
inherited extra argon-40 and yield excessively old ages.
There are similar problems with the other radioactive clocks. For example, consider the dating of Grand Canyons basalts
(rocks formed by lava cooling at the earths surface). We find places on the North Rim where volcanoes erupted after the
Canyon was formed, sending lavas cascading over the walls and down into the Canyon.Obviously, these eruptions took
place very recently, after the Canyons layers were deposited (Figure 3). These basalts yield ages of up to 1 million years
based on the amounts of potassium and argon isotopes in the rocks. But when we date the rocks using the rubidium and
strontium isotopes, we get an age of 1.143 billion years. This is the same age that we get for the basalt layers deep below
the walls of the eastern Grand Canyon.4How could both lavasone at the top and one at the bottom of the Canyonbe the
same age based on these parent and daughter isotopes? One solution is that both the recent and early lava flows inherited
the same rubidium-strontium chemistrynot agefrom the same source, deep in the earths upper mantle. This source
already had both rubidium and strontium.To make matters even worse for the claimed reliability of these radiometric dating
methods, these same basalts that flowed from the top of the Canyon yield a samarium-neodymium age of about 916 million
years,5 and a uranium-lead age of about 2.6 billion years!6
Assumption 2: No Contamination
The problems with contamination, as with inheritance, are already well-documented in the textbooks on radioactive dating of
rocks.7 Unlike the hourglass, where its two bowls are sealed, the radioactive clock in rocks is open to contamination by
gain or loss of parent or daughter isotopes because of waters flowing in the ground from rainfall and from the molten rocks
beneath volcanoes. Similarly, as molten lava rises through a conduit from deep inside the earth to be erupted through a
volcano, pieces of the conduit wallrocks and their isotopes can mix into the lava and contaminate it.Because of such
contamination, the less than 50-year-old lava flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand (Figure 4), yield a rubidium-strontium
age of 133 million years, a samarium-neodymium age of 197 million years, and a uranium-lead age of 3.908 billion
years!8
Assumption 3: Constant Decay Rate
Physicists have carefully measured the radioactive decay rates of parent radioisotopes in laboratories over the last 100 or
so years and have found them to be essentially constant (within the measurement error margins). Furthermore, they have
not been able to significantly change these decay rates by heat, pressure, or electrical and magnetic fields. So geologists
have assumed these radioactive decay rates have been constant for billions of years.
However, this is an enormous extrapolation of seven orders of magnitude back through immense spans of unobserved time
without any concrete proof that such an extrapolation is credible. Nevertheless, geologists insist the radioactive decay rates
have always been constant, because it makes these radioactive clocks work!New evidence, however, has recently been
discovered that can only be explained by the radioactive decay rates not having been constant in the past. 9 For example,
the radioactive decay of uranium in tiny crystals in a New Mexico granite (Figure 5) yields a uranium-lead age of 1.5 billion
years. Yet the same uranium decay also produced abundant helium, but only 6,000 years worth of that helium was found to
have leaked out of the tiny crystals.This means that the uranium must have decayed very rapidly over the same 6,000 years
that the helium was leaking. The rate of uranium decay must have been at least 250,000 times faster than todays measured
rate! For more details see Don DeYoungs Thousands . . . Not Billions (Master Books, Green Forest, Arkansas, 2005), pages
6578.The assumptions on which the radioactive dating is based are not only unprovable but plagued with problems. As this
article has illustrated, rocks may have inherited parent and daughter isotopes from their sources, or they may have been
contaminated when they moved through other rocks to their current locations. Or inflowing water may have mixed isotopes
into the rocks. In addition, the radioactive decay rates have not been constant.So if these clocks are based on faulty
assumptions and yield unreliable results, then scientists should not trust or promote the claimed radioactive ages of
countless millions of years, especially since they contradict the true history of the universe.
Radiometric Dating: Making Sense of the Patterns

by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on January 1, 2010; last featured March 16, 2011
Radiometric dating methods sometimes yield
conflicting results, but the technique itself is
scientific and reliable, and once the results are
interpreted in a creation framework, they yield
clear patterns that help us better understand
the earths history since creation six thousand
years ago.
Shop Now
Radiometric Dating 101
PART 1: Radiometric Dating: Back to Basics
PART 2: Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions
PART 3: Making Sense of the Patterns
This three-part series will help you properly understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates,
and the clues about what really happened in the past.Part Two of this series showed that the same rocks can yield very
different ages, depending on which radiometric dating technique you use. These inconsistent results are due to the
problems of inheritance and contamination, which cause the rocks chemistry to differ from the assumptions of standard
radioactive clocks.Furthermore, new evidence indicates that radioactive elements in the rocks, which are used to date the
rocks, decayed at much faster rates during some past event (or events) in the last 6,000 years. So the claimed ages of
many millions of years, which are based on todays slow decay rates, are totally unreliable.Does this mean we should throw
out the radioactive clocks? Surprisingly, they are useful!The general principles of using radioisotopes to date rocks are
sound; its just that the assumptions have been wrong and led to exaggerated dates. While the clocks cannot yield absolute
dates for rocks, they can provide relative ages that allow us to compare any two rock units and know which one formed first.
They also allow us to compare rock units in different areas of the world to find which ones formed at the same time.
Furthermore, if physicists examine why the same rocks yield different dates, they may discover new clues about the unusual
behavior of radioactive elements during the past.With the help of this growing body of information, creation geologists hope
to piece together a better understanding of the precise sequence of events in earths history, from Creation Week to the
Flood and beyond.
Different Dates for the Same Rocks
Usually geologists do not use all four main radioactive clocks to date a rock unit. This is considered an unnecessary waste
of time and money. After all, if these clocks really do work, then they should all yield the same age for a given rock unit.
Sometimes though, using different parent radioisotopes to date different samples (or minerals) from the same rock unit does
yield different ages, hinting that something is amiss.1Recently, creationist researchers have utilized all four common
radioactive clocks to date the same samples from the same rock units.2 Among these were four rock units far down in the
Grand Canyon rock sequence (Figure 1), chosen because they are well known and characterized. These were as follows:
Radiometric
Ages
of
Rock
Samples: Figures 1 through 5, and
Table 1. Click the picture to view a
larger, pdf version.
Cardenas Basalt (lava flows deep in
the east Canyon sequence) (Figure
2).
Bass Rapids diabase sill (where
basalt magma squeezed between
layers and cooled) (Figure 3).
Brahma amphibolites (basalt lava
flows deep in the Canyon sequence
that later metamorphosed) (Figure 4).
Elves Chasm Granodiorite (a granite
regarded as the oldest Canyon rock
unit) (Figure 5).
Table 1 lists the dates obtained from
each rock unit. Figure 6 (see below)
graphically illustrates the range in the
supposed ages of these rock units, obtained by utilizing all four radioactive clocks.
It is immediately apparent that the ages for each rock unit do not agree. Indeed, in the Cardenas Basalt, for example, the
samarium-neodymium age is three times the potassium-argon age.
Nevertheless, the ages follow three obvious patterns. Two techniques (potassium-argon age and rubidiumstrontium)always yield younger ages than two other techniques (uranium-lead and samarium-neodymium). Furthermore, the
potassium-argon ages are always younger than the rubidium-strontium ages. And often the samarium-neodymium ages are
younger than the uranium-lead ages.What then do these patterns mean? All the radioactive clocks in each rock unit should
have started ticking at the same time, the instant that each rock unit was formed. So how do we explain that they have
each recorded different ages?The answer is simple but profound. Each of the radioactive elements must have decayed at
different, faster rates in the past!In the case of the Cardenas Basalt, while the potassium-argon clock ticked through 516
million years, two other clocks ticked through 1,111 million years and 1,588 million years. So if these clocks ticked at such
different rates in the past, not only are they inaccurate, but these rocks may not be millions of years old!

Patterns in the Radiometric Ages: Figures 6


and 7. Click the picture to view a larger, pdf
version.
But how could radioactive decay rates have
been different in the past? Creationist
researchers dont fully understand yet.
However, the observed age patterns provide
clues. Potassium and rubidium decay
radioactively by the process known as beta ()
decay, whereas uranium and neodymium
decay via alpha () decay (Figure 6). The
former always gives younger ages. We see
another pattern within beta decay. Potassium
today decays faster than rubidium and always
gives younger ages.Both of these patterns
suggest something happened in the past
inside the nuclei of these parent atoms to
accelerate their decay. The decay rate varied
based on the stability or instability of the
parent atoms. Research is continuing.
Relative Ages
Look again at Figure 1, which is a geologic
diagram depicting the rock layers in the walls
of the Grand Canyon, along with the rock units
deep in the inner gorge along the Colorado
River. This diagram shows that the radiometric
dating methods accurately show the top rock
layer is younger than the layers beneath
it.Thats logical because the sediment making
up that layer was deposited on top of, and
therefore after, the layers below. So reading this diagram tells us basic information about the time that rock layers and rock
units were formed relative to other layers.Based on the radioactive clocks, we can conclude that these four rock units deep
in the gorge (Table 1) are all older in a relative sense than the horizontal sedimentary layers in the Canyon walls.
Conventionally the lowermost or oldest of these horizontal sedimentary layers is labeled early to middle Cambrian3 and thus
regarded as about 510520 million years old.4 All the rocks below it are then labeled Precambrian and regarded as older
than 542 million years.So accordingly all four dated rock units (Table 1) are also Precambrian. And apart from the
potassium-argon age for the Cardenas Basalt, all the radioactive clocks have correctly shown that these four rock units were
formed earlier than Cambrian, so they are pre-Cambrian. (But the passage of time between these Precambrian rock units
and the horizontal sedimentary layers above them was a maximum of about 1,700 yearsthe time between creation and
the Floodnot millions of years.)Similarly, in the relative sense the Brahma amphibolites and Elves Chasm Granodiorite are
older (by hours or days) than the Cardenas Basalt and Bass Rapids diabase sill (Figure 1). Once again, the radioactive
clocks have correctly shown that those two rock units are older than the rock units above them.Why then should we expect
the radioactive clocks to yield relative ages that follow a logical pattern? (Actually, younger sedimentary layers yield a similar
general pattern,5 Figure 7.) The answer is again simple but profound! The radioactive clocks in the rock units at the bottom
of the Grand Canyon, formed during Creation Week, have been ticking for longer than the radioactive clocks in the younger
sedimentary layers higher up in the sequence that were formed later during the Flood.
Conclusion
Although it is a mistake to accept radioactive dates of millions of years, the clocks can still be useful to us, in principle, to
date the relative sequence of rock formation during earth history.The different clocks have ticked at different, faster rates in
the past, so the standard old ages are certainly not accurate, correct, or absolute. However, because the radioactive clocks
in rocks that formed early in earth history have been ticking longer, they should generally yield older radioactive ages than
rock layers formed later.So it is possible that relative radioactive ages of rocks, in addition to mineral contents and other rock
features, could be used to compare and correlate similar rocks in other areas to find which ones formed at the same time
during the earth history.
Radioactive Dating Failure
Recent New Zealand Lava Flows Yield Ages of Millions of Years
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on December 1, 1999
Originally published in Creation 22, no 1 (December 1999):
18-21.
Recent New Zealand lava flows yield ages of millions of
years.
Standing roughly in the centre of New Zealands North
Island, Mt Ngauruhoe is New Zealands newest volcano
and one of the most active (Figures 1 and 2). It is not as
well publicized as its larger close neighbour MT Ruapehu,
which has erupted briefly several times in the last five years.However, Mt Ngauruhoe is an
imposing, almost perfect cone that rises more than 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) above the
surrounding landscape to an elevation of 2,291 m (7,500 feet) above sea level1 (Figure 3).
Eruptions from a central 400 m (1,300 foot) wide crater have constructed the cones steep
(33) outer slopes.
Figure 1. The location of Mt Ngauruhoe, central North Island, New Zealand. (click image for
larger view)
Mt Ngauruhoe is thought to have been active for at least 2,500 years, with more than 70
eruptive periods since 1839, when European settlers first recorded a steam eruption.2 Of

course, before that, the Maoris witnessed many eruptions from the mountain. The first lava eruption seen by Europeans
occurred in 1870.3 Then there were ash eruptions every few years until a major explosive eruption in AprilMay 1948,
followed by lava flowing down the northwestern slopes in February 1949.4,5 The estimated lava volume was about 575,000
cubic metres (20 million cubic feet).
Figure 2. Aerial view, looking south at sunrise, of volcanoes Mt Ngauruhoe (foreground) and MT Ruapehu (background).
The eruption lasting from 13 May 1954 to 10 March 1955 began with an explosive ejection of ash
and blocks.6,7 Then almost 8 million cubic metres (280 million cubic feet) of lava flowed from the
crater in a series of 17 distinct flows on the following 1954 dates:
June 4, 30
July 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 23, 28, 29, 30
August 15(?), 18
September 16, 18, 26
These flows are still distinguishable today on the northwestern and western slopes of Ngauruhoe
(Figure 4). The 18 August flow was more than 18 m (55 feet) thick and still warm almost a year
after congealing. Explosions of ash completed this long eruptive period.
Figure 3. Mt Ngauruhoe as seen looking north from near MT Ruapehu.
Afterwards, Ngauruhoe steamed almost continuously, with many small ash eruptions8 (Figure 5).
Cannon-like, highly explosive eruptions in January and March 1974 threw out large quantities of
ash as a column into the atmosphere, and as avalanches flowing down the cones sides. Blocks
weighing up to 1,000 tonnes were hurled 100 m (330 feet). However, the most violent explosions
occurred on 19 February 1975, accompanied by what eye-witnesses described as atmospheric
shock waves.9 Blocks up to 30 m (100 ft) across were catapulted up to 3 km (almost 2 miles).
The eruption plume was 1113 km (78 miles) high.Turbulent avalanches of ash and blocks
swept down Ngauruhoes sides at about 60 km (35 miles) per hour.10 It is estimated that at least
3.4 million cubic metres (120 million cubic feet) of ash and blocks were ejected in 7 hours.11up>
No further eruptions have occurred since.
Dating the rocks
Figure 4. View from the Mangateopopo Valley at the base of Mt Ngauruhoe, showing the darkercoloured recent lava flows on its northwestern slopes.
Radioactive dating in general depends on three major assumptions:
When the rock forms (hardens) there should only be parent radioactive atoms in the rock and no
daughter radiogenic (derived by radioactive decay of another element) atoms;512After hardening,
the rock must remain a closed system, that is, no parent or daughter atoms should be added to or removed from the rock by
external influences such as percolating groundwaters; and
The radioactive decay rate must remain constant.
If any of these assumptions are violated, then the technique fails and any dates are false.
The potassium-argon (KAr) dating method is often used to date volcanic rocks (and by extension, nearby fossils). In using
this method, it is assumed that there was no daughter radiogenic argon ( 40Ar*) in rocks when they formed.13 For volcanic
rocks which cool from molten lavas, this would seem to be a reasonable assumption. Because argon is a gas, it should
escape to the atmosphere due to the intense heat of the lavas. Of course, no geologist was present to test this assumption
by observing ancient lavas when they cooled, but we can study modern lava flows.
Potassium-argon dates
Figure 5. Small ash eruption, Mt Ngauruhoe.
Figure 6. Inset: Andesite of the June 30, 1954 flow, Mt Ngauruhoe, seen at
60 times magnification under a geological microscope. Different minerals
have different colours. All are embedded in a fine-grained matrix.Eleven
samples were collected from five recent lava flows during field work in
January 1996two each from the 11 February 1949, 4 June 1954, and 14
July 1954 flows and from the 19 February 1975 avalanche deposits, and
three from the 30 June 1954 flow14 (Figure 6). The darker recent lavas were
clearly visible and each one easily identified (with the aid of maps) on the
northwestern slopes against the lighter-coloured older portions of the cone
(Figures 4 and 7). All flows were typically made up of jumbled blocks of
congealed lava, resulting in rough, jagged, clinkery surfaces (Figure 8).
The samples were sent progressively in batches to Geochron Laboratories in
Cambridge, Boston (USA), for whole-rock potassium-argon (KAr) datingfirst a piece of one sample from each flow, then
a piece of the second sample from each flow after the first set of results was received, and finally, a piece of the third sample
from the 30 June 1954 flow.15 To also test the consistency of results within samples, second pieces of two of the 30 June
1954 lava samples were also sent for analysis.Geochron is a respected commercial laboratory, the KAr lab manager
having a Ph.D. in KAr dating. No specific location or expected age information was supplied to the laboratory. However, the
samples were described as probably young with very little argon in them so as to ensure extra care was taken during the
analytical work.
Figure 7. Map of the northwestern slopes of Mt Ngauruhoe showing the lava flows of
1949 and 1954, and the 1975 avalanche deposits.3,4 (Click image for larger view)
The dates obtained from the KAr analyses are listed in Table 1.16 The ages
range from <0.27 to 3.5 ( 0.2) million years for rocks which wereobserved to have
cooled from lavas 2550 years ago. One sample from each flow yielded ages of
<0.27 or <0.29 million years while all the other samples gave ages of millions of
years. The low age samples were all processed by the laboratory in the same
batch, suggesting a systematic lab problem. So the lab manager kindly re-checked
his equipment and re-ran several of the samples, producing similar results. This
ruled out a systematic lab error and confirmed that the low results were real.
Furthermore, repeat measurements on samples already analyzed (A#2 and B#2
in Table 1) did not reproduce the same results, but this was not surprising given the
analytical uncertainties at such low levels of argon. Clearly, the argon content varies
greatly within these rocks. Some geochronologists would say <0.27 million years is

actually the correct date, but how would they know that 3.5 million years was not in fact the correct age if they did not
already know the lava flows were recent?!Because these rocks are known to be less than 50 years old, it is apparent from
the analytical data that these KAr ages are due to excess argon inherited from the magma source area deep in the
earth.17 Thus, when the lavas cooled, they contained appreciable (non-zero) concentrations of normal 40Ar, which is
indistinguishable from daughter radiogenic 40Ar* derived by radioactive decay of parent 40K. This violates assumption (1) of
radioactive dating, and so the KAr method fails the test. This same failure is also known to occur in many other rocks,
including both recent volcanics18and ancient crustal rocks.19
Conclusions
Figure 8. The June 30, 1954 lava flow, showing the jumbled blocks of congealed lava which give it
a rough, jagged, clinkery surface.The radioactive potassium-argon dating method has been
demonstrated to fail on 1949, 1954, and 1975 lava flows at Mt Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, in spite
of the quality of the laboratorys KAr analytical work. Argon gas, brought up from deep inside the
earth within the molten rock, was already present in the lavas when they cooled. We know the
true ages of the rocks because they were observed to form less than 50 years ago. Yet they yield
ages up to 3.5 million years which are thus false. How can we trust the use of this same dating
on rocks whose ages we dont know? If the method fails on rocks when we have an independent
eye-witness account, then why should we trust it on other rocks where there are no independent
historical cross-checks?
The KAr (potassium-argon) dating method
Fossils are almost never dated by radiometric methods, since they rarely contain suitable
radioactive elements. A common way of dating fossils (and rocks which do not contain radioactive
elements) is by dating an associated volcanic rock. This is commonly done using the KAr
method. It depends on the rate at which radioactive potassium decays into the gas argon.The K
Ar method works on the assumption that the clock begins to tick the moment that the rock hardens. That is, it assumes
that no argon derived by radioactive decay was present initially, but after the lava cooled and solidified, the argon from
radioactive decay was unable to escape and started to accumulate. However, it is well-known that if a radiometric date
contradicts a fossil-derived (evolutionary) age, the date is discarded as erroneous. See Lubenow, M.,The Pigs Took It
All, Creation 17(3):3638, 1995.
FLOW DATE

SAMPLE

LAB CODE

KAr AGE (million years)

11 February 1949

R-11714

<0.27

R-11511

1.0 0.2

R-11715

<0.27

R-11512

1.5 0.1

A #1

R-11718

<0.27

A #2

R-12106

1.3 0.3

B #1

R-12003

3.5 0.2

B #2

R-12107

0.8 0.2

R-11513

1.2 0.2

R-11509

1.0 0.2

R-11716

<0.29

R-11510

1.0 0.2

R-11717

<0.27

4 June 1954

30 June 30, 1954

14 July 1954

19 February 1975

Table 1. Potassium-argon dates of recent Mt Ngauruhoe (New Zealand) lava flows.20


Ed. note, this Creation magazine article by Dr Snelling is based on his technical paper21, which has far more detail about
research methods and answers to possible criticisms than was possible in Creation magazine.
Radioactive Dating Method Under Fire
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on March 1, 1992
Originally published in Creation 14, no 2 (March 1992): 43-47.
In most peoples minds today, the radioactive dating of the earths rocks by geologists has supposedly proved that the earth
is billions of years old.
Yet most people really dont know much about these radioactive dating methods. So slick and convincing are the
presentations of results, particularly in glossy media and museum propaganda, that no one even bothers to question how
these dating methods work, what assumptions are involved, and how reliable they are.Such questions, however, are highly
relevant. The answers are not only instructive, but demolish the evolutionary geologists case for a 4.5-billion-year old earth.
This in turn allows the evidence for a young earth and universe1 to speak more loudly in support of the scriptural
chronology of a 6,000-7,000 year age, which of course leaves no time for any big bang and molecules-to-man evolutionary
scenarios.Recently, the radioactive dating method which geologists (and physicists) have considered to be perhaps the
most reliable has come under heavy fire. The big surprise is that the attack has come from an evolutionary geologist and
has been published in a secular scientific journal! But more of that in a moment. First, let s find out how radioactive dating
methods are supposed to work.
Radioactive dating explained
Some types (technically known as isotopes) of parent elements such as uranium, thorium, potassium and rubidium are
said to be radioactive because the nuclei of the atoms are unstable, resulting in readjustments between the particles
(primarily neutrons and protons) in the nuclei with time. To achieve stability, some particles are ejected from the atoms, and

these moving particles constitute the radioactivity measured by Geiger counters and the like. The end result is stable atoms
of the daughter elements lead, argon, and strontium respectively.Thus the first step in the radioactive dating technique is to
measure the amounts of the parent and daughter elements (isotopes) in a rock sample via chemical analyses. This is done
in specially equipped laboratories with sophisticated instruments capable of very good precision and accuracy, so in general
there is no quarrel with the resulting chemical analyses.However, it is with the interpretation of the chemical analyses of the
radioactive parents and resultant daughters that the problems with radioactive dating of rocks begin. In order to interpret
these chemical analyses, geochronologists must make three vital assumptions, otherwise the radioactive clock cannot be
made to read the age of the rocks. These assumptions are:
the initial conditions are known;
the system has been closed; and
the radioactive decay rate has remained constant.
So that these assumptions are easily understood, they are best explained in the context of the hourglass analogy (see
Figure 1). Grains of fine sand fall at a steady rate from the top glass bowl to the bottom. At time t = 0, the hourglass is turned
upside-down so that all the sand starts in the top bowl. By time t = 1 hour, all the sand is supposed to have fallen into the
bottom glass bowl.Now this clock works because the initial conditions are knownthat is, all the sand grains are in the top
glass bowl and none are in the bottom one. If there is already some sand in the bottom glass bowl, then unless this amount
is known the hourglass clock cannot tell the time. Similarly, if the system has not remained closed (for example, if sand
were somehow added or subtracted), then the calculation of the elapsed time, based on comparing the amounts of sand in
the two glass bowls, will again lead to an incorrect conclusion. And finally, if the rate at which the sand grains fall from the
top glass bowl to the bottom one varies (for example, moisture causes some clogging of the sand in the constriction
between the two glass bowls), then again the hourglass clock will be inaccurate.
Unproven assumptions
The radioactive decay of parent isotopes of uranium, thorium, potassium, and rubidium to daughter isotopes of lead, argon
and strontium respectively is analogous to our hourglass clock, including these three assumptions. However, in the case of
these radioactive clocks these three assumptions can be shown to be not only unprovable, but invalid, rendering these
clocks virtually useless.In the case of the initial conditions, no scientist can ever be sure as to what they were, because no
scientist was present here on the earth at its origin. Thus the amount of daughter isotope that has actually been derived
from the parent isotope by radioactive decay is unknown, since some of the daughter isotope might have been present with
its respective parent isotope at the time of the earths origin.So geochronologists have assumed that the uranium, thorium
and lead isotopic composition of particular meteorites is equivalent to the initial composition of these isotopes when the
earth came into existence. This is assumed because it is supposed that these meteorites represent fragments from another
planet in the solar system similar to our earth that disintegrated very early in the history of the solar system. However, not all
meteorites have the same uraniumthorium- lead isotopic composition, so why should the isotopic composition of these
particular meteorites be considered to be the correct composition for the earth at its origin rather than some other
composition found in other meteorites?
An hourglass clock tells us the elapsed time by comparing the amount of sand in the
top bowl (parent) with the amount in the bottom bowl (daughter).Furthermore, even if
todays scientists believe they have the methods, for example graphical and
mathematical, for determining how much of the daughter isotope might have been
present either at the origin of the earth or the origin of the rock being dated, no one can
ever be sure that these answers are correct, because there was no scientist present
at the beginning to observe those initial conditions, even though the scientists
calculations may be extremely logical.Similarly, there is no way that it can be proved
that these radioactive systems have been closed through all the supposed millions of
years of decay of parent isotopes into daughter isotopes. Again, the main reason for
this is because no scientist has been present to observe everywhere these radioactive
systems and so report that they have been closed through all their history. Indeed, the
evidence indicates the very opposite, that is, that these systems have been open to all
sorts of external influences.For example, it is known that uranium is generally a mobile
element in the natural environment, particularly in groundwaters near the earths
surface. Thus, if a rock sample is analysed at or near the earths surface for its uranium
and lead isotopes, it would be incorrect to assume that all the uranium and lead in the
sample were there only because of the amounts placed in the rock at its origin and
because of undisturbed radioactive decay from uranium into lead. Some of the uranium
might have been leached out of the rock sample, hence making the rock appear older than it really is according to this
radioactive clock. Or, some uranium might have been deposited by groundwaters into the sample, thus making it appear
younger than what it really is.Indeed, geochronologists often plot the chemical analyses of the isotopes, expressed as
isotope ratios, on graphs, and these often show that the parent-daughter systems have not been closed, but open.
Furthermore, by interpretation of these graphs they often claim to be able to quantify the loss or gain and thus overcome this
difficulty to still read the radioactive clock. However, once again this interpretation to overcome this problem of the
invalidated closed-system assumption cannot be proved, but is merely assumed to be correct because it makes the
radioactive clock work.The final assumption is, of course, that the radioactive decay rates have remained constant.
However, once again, this assumption can in no way be proved, because there were no human observers present right
throughout the earths history to be constantly measuring the radioactive decay rates and to have recorded them.It is special
pleading on the part of geochronologists and physicists to say that the radioactive decay rates have been carefully
measured in laboratories for the past 80 or 90 years and that no significant variation of these rates has been measured. The
bottom line is really that 80 or 90 years of measurements are being extrapolated backwards in time to the origin of the
earth, believed by evolutionists to be 4.5 billion years ago. That is an enormous extrapolation. In any other field of scientific
research, if scientists or mathematicians were to extrapolate results over that many orders of magnitude, thereby assuming
continuity of results over such enormous spans of unobserved time, they would be literally laughed out of court by fellow
scientists and mathematicians. Yet geochronologists are allowed to do this with impunity, primarily because it gives the
desired millions and billions of years that evolutionists require, and because it makes these radioactive clocks work!So we
have seen that none of these three basic assumptions which are foundational to all the radioactive dating techniques can be
proved. Indeed, we have also seen that each of these three assumptions is invalid, not only because no scientist has been
present from the origin of the earth to see what it was like then and to report as an eyewitness all that has happened
everywhere since, but because we know of observations contrary to these assumptions.
The isochron dating method

Apart from the initial conditions, the major problem facing geochronologists is that geological systems are invariably open to
external influences. Thus, analyses of radioisotopes often produce results that reflect loss, or sometimes gain, of either
parent or daughter isotope, rendering single radioactive age determinations suspect. Thus geochronologists tackle the
problem by performing a number of radioactive age determinations on a group of samples from the rock under investigation,
hoping to pin-point a pattern that will enable the calculation of the desired true age.If these multiple isotopic analyses of
various rock samples, and minerals within those rock samples, are from the same geological unit, then geochronologists
can also use what is known as the isochron age determination method. This method is supposed to allow some of the more
uncertain assumptions of the normal age calculating method to be circumvented and so permit a higher degree of
confidence in the resulting age estimate. Consequently, geochronologists favour this isochron method and so it has
become very popular, particularly with rubidium-strontium, samarium-neodymium and uranium-lead isotopic systems.
The isochron method works as follows. If a
number of rock samples from a single
geological unit are carefully collected, then
it is claimed that it is reasonable to
assume that each rock sample from that
geological unit formed at the same time,
and therefore ultimately has the same age.
However, from experience it is known that
each rock sample differs in the amounts of
both daughter and parent isotopes
contained.A graph is then constructed so
as to plot the amount of daughter isotope
against the amount of parent isotope, so
the isotopic analysis of each rock sample
will then be represented as a single point
on this graph. Often these data points,
plotted on the graph of daughter isotope
composition against parent isotope
composition, form a linear array through
which a sloping line can usually be drawn
with a high degree of fit of the data points
to the line, as shown in Figure 2. This is
because those samples with larger amounts of parent isotope have correspondingly larger amounts of daughter isotope,
and those samples with smaller amounts of parent isotope have correspondingly smaller amounts of daughter isotope,
assuming of course that all the daughter isotope has been produced by radioactive decay from the parent isotope.
This line is then interpreted as an effect produced by radioactive decay to give an age interpretation. Since all of these rock
samples are supposed to have been formed at the same time because they come from the same geological unit, this line is
called an isochron (from the Greek isos equal, and chronos time) or line of equal age. Furthermore, it can be shown
mathematically that the slope of the line can then be used to calculate the isochron age of the geological unit from which
the rock samples came.This method has become popular because no knowledge or assumptions about the initial conditions
of parent and daughter isotopes need be made. Furthermore, since the analytical equipment determines isotopic ratios, not
absolute abundances of isotopes, parent and daughter isotopes are usually expressed as ratios relative to a reference
isotope whose abundance is not affected by radioactive decay, thus providing easy application of the method and more
confidence in its results.While the assumptions of constant decay rate and a closed system are again necessary, the
isochron method also has two other critical assumptionsthe rock samples must represent the one unit that formed at the
same time geologically, and the daughter isotope was uniformly distributed through all the samples when the rock unit
formed. Because of the apparent success of this isochron method, it has become in recent years the cornerstone of
radioactive dating in geology.
Isochron dating questioned
However, it is this isochron dating method that has recently come under fire. Writing in the international journal Chemical
Geology,2 Y.F. Zheng of the Geochemical Institute at the University of Gottingen in Germany says:
The Rb-Sr isochron method has been one of the most important approaches in isotopic geochronology. But some of the
basic assumptions of the method are being questioned at the present time. As first developed the method assumed a
system to have: (1) the same age; (2) the same initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio; and (3) acted as a closed system. Meanwhile, the
goodness of fit of experimental data points in a plot of 87Sr/86Sr vs. 87Rb/86Sr served as a check of these assumptions.
However, as the method was gradually applied to a large range of geological problems, it soon became apparent that a
linear relationship between 87Sr/86Sr and 87Rb/86Sr ratios could sometimes yield an anomalous isochron which had no distinct
geological meaning. A number of anomalous isochrons have been reported in the literature and various terms have been
invented, such as apparent isochron (Baadsgaard et al., 1976), mantle isochron and pseudoisochron (Brooks et al., 1976a,
b), secondary isochron (Field and Ra- Heim, 1980). inherited isochron (Roddick and Compston, 1977), source isochron
(Compston and Chappell, 1979), erupted isochron (Betton, 1979; Munksgaard, 1984), mixing line (Bell and Powell, 1969;
Faure, 1977; Christoph, 1986) and mixing isochron (Zheng, 1986; Qin, 1988). Even a suite of samples which do not have
identical ages and initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios can be fitted to isochrons, such as aerial isochrons (Kohler and Muller-Sohnius,
1980; Haack et al., 1982).3
He went on to say:
Evidently, the theoretical basis of the classical Rb-Sr isochron is being challenged and some limitations of its basic
assumptions are being revealed. Some of what this paper contains is not new to isotopic geochronologists, but it is drawn
together here for the first time and is placed in a context within unifying general models for Rb-Sr dating.4However, Zhengs
paper really isnt the first time that these problems with the isochron dating method have been comprehensively highlighted
and treated mathematically. It was in fact creation scientists who first comprehensively pointed to the problems with the
isochron dating method. In a series of short articles published in the Bible-Science Newsletter in 1981, Dr. Russell Arndts,
Professor of Chemistry at St Cloud State University in Minnesota, and Dr. William Overn, a former engineer and physicist
with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), showed how isochrons were in fact often a result of the
mixing of the radioisotopes from different sources.5 They also illustrated this with various examples from the geological
literature. They concluded:
It is clear that mixing of pre-existent materials will yield a linear array of isotopic ratios. We need not assume that the
isotopes, assumed to be daughter isotopes, were in fact produced in the rock by radioactive decay. Thus the assumption of

immense ages has not been proven. The straight lines, which seem to make radiometric data meaningful, are easily
assumed to be the result of simple mixing.(their emphasis)6They go on to suggest that the concept of mixing a material
from wide ranges seems to suggest that the earth has undergone widespread stirring. Such processes do not of course
always involve the actual physical movement of rock, rock-forming components such as mineral grains, or molten materials,
but more often involve the mixing of chemical components via fluxes of fluids, principally water, through the rocks. Zheng
concurs with this in his paper when he speaks of geological processes such as hydrothermal (hot water) alteration,
metasomatism, and metamorphism, the latter two involving changes in rocks due to fluids, temperature, and pressure.
Zheng admits:
In some cases, gain or loss of Rb and Sr from the rocks is so regular that a linear array can be produced on the
conventional isochron diagram and a biased isochron results from the altered rocks to give spurious age and initial 87Sr/86Sr
ratio estimates.7
At the end of his paper, Zheng wrote:
In conclusion, some of the basic assumptions of the conventional Rb-Sr isochron method have to be modified and an
observed isochron does not certainly define a valid age information for a geological system, even if a goodness of fit of the
experimental data points is obtained in plotting 87Sr/86Sr vs. 87Rb/86Sr. This problem cannot be overlooked, especially in
evaluating the numerical time scale. Similar questions can also arise in applying Sm-Nd and U-Pb isochron methods.8
And as if to make the point even more succinctly and clearly, Zheng also wrote in the abstract (or summary) of his paper:
As it is impossible to distinguish a valid isochron from an apparent isochron in the light of Rb-Sr isotopic data alone, caution
must be taken in explaining the Rb-Sr isochron age of any geological system.One could hardly expect a more emphatic and
complete demolition job on the isochron dating method than that! Notice also that Zheng extends his criticism to the
traditional uranium-lead (UPb) and currently-in-vogue samarium-neodymium (Sm-Nd) isochron methods.
Conclusions
Given now these criticisms from an evolutionist geochemist/geochronologist in the open scientific literature, one wonders
how quickly geochronologists world-wide will rigorously re-examine the isochron method and the results it has produced
over the past few decades. Of course, abandoning the method could hardly be countenanced, as it would mean abandoning
what has become one of the foundational cornerstones to the whole evolutionary view of the geological development of the
earth with its millions of years time-scale.Nevertheless, this attack on radioactive dating by an evolutionist in the open
scientific literature is a timely reminder that there are problems with these methods. creationists need not compromise with
the evolutionists time-scale because it is being propped up by these faulty dating methods. Rather, we should place our
confidence in the 6,000-7,000 year chronology.
Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on October 31, 2007
Abstract
The RATE research project demonstrated
that creationists could support a larger-scale
collaborative research effort, particularly if it
delivered significant breakthroughs on a key
challenging issues.
Keywords: radioisotopes, age of the earth,
RATE, Institute for Creation Research,
Creation Research Society, fission tracks,
radiohalos, radioisotope, dating methods,
radiocarbon, carbon-14, decay
The 19972005 RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) research project at the Institute for Creation Research (cosponsored by the Creation Research Society) demonstrated that creationists could support a larger-scale collaborative
research effort, particularly if it delivered significant breakthroughs on a key challenging issue. The primary focus of this
research effort was the radioactive methods for dating rocks that supposedly yield age estimates of millions and billions of
years and thus provide support for the claimed multi-billion year age for the earth. The research team assembled for this
project included:
Larry Vardiman,
D. Russell Humphreys,
Eugene F. Chaffin,
Donald DeYoung,
John R. Baumgardner,
Steven A. Austin,
Andrew A. Snelling,

Ph.D. Atmospheric Science (project co-ordinator)


Ph.D. Physics (helium diffusion)
Ph.D. Physics (theoretical models)
Ph.D. Physics
Ph.D. Geophysics (radiocarbon)
Ph.D. Geology (rock dating)
Ph.D. Geology (rock dating, fission tracks, radiohalos)

Steven W. Boyd, Ph.D. Hebraic and Cognate Studies There were numerous significant outcomes from this project:
There is visible physical evidence in rocks, namely, fission tracks and radiohalos, that a lot of nuclear decay has occurred
through earth history. Uranium atoms decay in two ways. Some uranium atoms spontaneously break apart (split or fission)
into two smaller atoms. The energy of this fission process causes the two smaller atoms to fly apart, leaving observable
linear scars called fission tracks in the host minerals that can be seen under a microscope. In most other uranium atoms, the
size of their nuclei makes them unstable, and so, radiation particles called alpha-particles are ejected from them. These
alpha-particles are like little bullets that damage the host minerals leaving physical scars. Because the alpha-particles are
ejected in all directions from around where the uranium atoms are concentrated, the result seen in cross section is a halo of
visible physical damage which can be seen under a microscope. These are called radioactive halos, abbreviated to
radiohalos. Some minerals from many levels in the geologic record were found to have high concentrations of fission
tracks and numerous radiohalos consistent with much nuclear decay having occurred, equivalent to hundreds of millions of
years worth of decay at todays slow rates. This would suggest that, the large quantity of nuclear decay must have occurred
at much faster rates than those measured today.There are often systematic differences in the radioisotope age estimates
provided by the four main radioactive dating methods from the same samples of rock units. Unstable parent atoms decay
into daughter atoms of different elements, so measuring quantities of parent and daughter atoms in rocks and minerals, and
knowing the rates at which this decay occurs, enables the calculation of when the decay process began in that rock or

mineral, which is then deemed its age estimate. An example of the results obtained is provided by the rock layer of volcanic
origin at Bass Rapids in the Grand Canyon, which yielded the following age estimates:
841.5 million years (potassium-argon)
1,060 million years (rubidium-strontium)
1,250 million years (uranium-lead)
1,379 million years (samarium-neodymium)
These four methods should have yielded the same age estimate for this volcanic rock layer because the decay of each of
the four parent atoms all began at the same time when this volcanic rock layer formed. One way these different age
estimates can be reconciled is if the different parent atoms decayed at different faster rates in the past. The parent atoms
which give the older ages decayed much more, and thus much faster, relative to the other parent atoms.There is evidence
that nuclear decay rates were grossly accelerated during a recent catastrophic episode or episodes. They are the
systematic differences in radioisotope age estimates for the same rock units, as explained in item two above, which can only
be reconciled by grossly accelerated decay rates in the past. There are co-existing uranium and polonium radiohalos in the
same mineral grains in granites from around the world. Because polonium has a fleeting existence, the polonium radiohalos
had to have formed within hours and days. However, the source of the polonium had to be the uranium which was also at
the same time producing the uranium radiohalos. So, the uranium had to be decaying extremely rapidly to supply sufficient
polonium quickly enough to form the adjacent polonium radiohalos. And finally, helium gas is a by-product of the radioactive
decay of uranium within minerals. However, this helium gas easily leaks out of the host minerals. Thus two age estimates
can be calculated for these mineral grainsone based on radioactive decay of uranium to lead, and the other based on the
rate at which the helium leaks out of the mineral grains. For certain mineral crystals it was found the uranium-lead
radioactive age estimate was 1.5 billion years, yet the helium leak age was only about 6,000 years. Because the latter is
based on experimentally verified physical laws, it can be concluded that a tremendous amount of radioactive decay (which
would take 1.5 billion years at today's decay rates) must have occurred catastrophically during some event in the last 6,000
years!There are significant detectable levels of radiocarbon (carbon-14) intrinsic within ancient coal and diamonds. Samples
from coal layers conventionally dated at 40320 million years old all yielded radiocarbon age estimates of around 50,000
years, implying that they were all deposited recently, at the same time and in the same event. Interestingly, diamonds
conventionally dated at 12 billion years old gave only slightly older radiocarbon age estimates. When it is considered that
radiocarbon levels and production rates were different in the past, these radiocarbon age estimates for these coal layers and
diamonds are direct evidence of a young earth.The mechanisms associated with how radioactive decay occurs within the
nuclei of the parent atomswhen theoretically adjustedchange decay rates. Very tiny adjustments to the nuclear forces
could produce very large changes in decay rates. It is realized that changes in fundamental constants, and also greatly
accelerated nuclear decay, are radical suggestions.Because of the RATE research results, the long-age radioactive
methods for dating rocks can now be more easily demonstrated to often be faulty, since there are problems with the three
crucial assumptions on which they are based:There are uncertainties as to the absence or presence of daughter atoms
when the rocks formed, because there is much evidence of the rocks having inherited daughter atoms that were not formed
by radioactive decay in those rocks.There is abundant evidence of widespread open-system behavior of parent and
daughter atoms. Rocks are often contaminated with extra parent and daughter atoms produced apart from radioactive
decay. Parent and daughter atoms are also removed by various geologic processes (for example, leaching by fluids)
subsequent to the rocks forming.
Nuclear decay rates may well have changed in the past.
Much research, even reported in the conventional scientific literature, has found that rocks of known age often yield
erroneously old radioactive age estimates because either one of the first two assumptions, or both, can be demonstrated to
be false. And if the radioactive clocks have not always ticked at the currently measured slow rates but were grossly
accelerated in the past, then these radioactive dating methods cannot be used to provide reliable age estimates for rocks.
After all, if these clocks dont work on rocks of known ages, how can they be trusted on rocks of unknown ages? To be
sure, there is a systematic trend of radioactive age estimates for rocks according to their positions in the geologic record, but
this would be expected if nuclear decay was grossly accelerated systematically when the rock layers were forming. For
example, rocks laid down early in the Flood would yield older ages than rocks laid down later during the Flood because the
earlier rocks would have experienced more accelerated radioactive decay.
U-Th-Pb Dating: An Example of False Isochrons
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on December 9, 2009
Abstract
As with other isochron methods, the U-Pb isochron
method has been questioned in the open literature,
because often an excellent line of best fit between ratios
obtained from a set of good cogenetic samples gives a
resultant isochron and yields a derived age that has no
distinct geological meaning. At Koongarra, Australia, UTh-Pb isotopic studies of uranium ore, host rocks, and
soils have produced an array of false isochrons that yield ages that are geologically meaningless. Even a claimed nearconcordant U-Pb age of 862 Ma on one uraninite grain is identical to a false Pb-Pb isochron age, but neither can be
connected to any geological event. Open system behavior of the U-Th-Pb system is clearly the norm, as is the resultant
mixing of radiogenic Pb with common or background Pb, even in soils in the surrounding region. Because no geologically
meaningful results can be interpreted from the U-Th-Pb data at Koongarra (three uraninite grains even yield a 232Th/208Pb
age of 0 Ma), serious questions must be asked about the validity of the fundamental/foundational basis of the U-Th-Pb
dating method. This makes the task of creationists building their model for the geological record much easier, since claims
of U-Th-Pb radiometric dating having proven the claimed great antiquity of the earth, its strata and fossils can be safely
side-stepped.
Keywords: geochronology, U-Th-Pb isotopes, isochrons, uranium ore, soils
This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, pp. 497504
(1994) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh.
Introduction
Radiometric dating has now been used for almost 50 years to establish beyond doubt the earths multibillion year
geological column. Although this column and its age was firmly settled well before the advent of radiometric dating, the
latter has been successfully used to help quantify the ages of the strata and the fossils in the column, so that in many

peoples minds today radiometric dating has proved the presumed antiquity of the earth. Of the various methods, uraniumthorium-lead (U-Th-Pb) was the first used and it is still widely employed today, particularly when zircons are present in the
rocks to be dated. But the method does not always give the expected results, leading to fundamental questions about its
validity.In his conclusion in a recent paper exposing shortcomings and criticizing the validity of the popular rubidiumstrontium (Rb-Sr) isochron method, Zheng wrote:
. . . some of the basic assumptions of the conventional Rb-Sr isochron method have to be modified and an observed
isochron does not certainly define a valid age information for a geological system, even if a goodness of fit of the
experimental data points is obtained in plotting 87Sr/86Sr vs. 87Rb/86Sr. This problem cannot be overlooked, especially in
evaluating the numerical timescale. Similar questions can also arise in applying Sm-Nd and U-Pb isochron methods.1
Amongst the concerns voiced by Zheng were the problems being found with anomalous isochrons, that is, where there is an
apparent linear relationship between 87Sr/86Sr and 87Rb/86Sr ratios, even an excellent line of best fit between ratios obtained
from good cogenetic samples, and yet the resultant isochron and derived age have no distinct geological meaning. Zheng
documented the copious reporting of this problem in the literature where various names had been given to these anomalous
isochrons, such as apparent isochron, mantle isochron and pseudoisochron, secondary isochron, source isochron, erupted
isochron, mixing line, and mixing isochron.
Similar anomalous or false isochrons are commonly obtained from U-Th-Pb data, which is hardly surprising given the
common open system behavior of the U-Th-Pb system. Yet in the literature these problems are commonly glossed over or
pushed aside, but their increasing occurrence from a variety of geological settings does seriously raise the question as to
whether U-Th-Pb data ever yields any valid age information. One such geological setting that yields these false U-Th-Pb
isochrons is the Koongarra uranium deposit and the surrounding area (Northern Territory, Australia).
The Koongarra Area
The Koongarra area is 250 km east of Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia) at latitude 1252'S and longitude 13250'E. The
regional geology has been described in detail by Needham and Stuart-Smith2 and by Needham,3, 4 while
Snelling5 describes the Koongarra uranium deposit and the areas local geology.The Koongarra uranium deposit occurs in a
metamorphic terrain that has an Archean basement consisting of domes of granitoids and granitic gneisses (the Nanambu
Complex), the nearest outcrop being 5 km to the north. Some of the lowermost overlying Lower Proterozoic metasediments
were accreted to these domes during amphibolite grade regional metamorphism (estimated to represent conditions of 58
kb and 550630C) at 18001870 Ma. Multiple isoclinal recumbent folding accompanied metamorphism. The Lower
Proterozoic Cahill Formation flanking the Nanambu Complex has been divided into two members. The lower member is
dominated by a thick basal dolomite and passes transitionally upwards into the psammitic upper member, which is largely
feldspathic schist and quartzite. The uranium mineralization at Koongarra is associated with graphitic horizons within
chloritized quartz-mica (feldspar garnet) schists overlying the basal dolomite in the lower member. A 150 Ma period of
weathering and erosion followed metamorphism. A thick sequence of essentially flat-lying sandstones (the Middle
Proterozoic Kombolgie Formation) was then deposited unconformably on the Archean- Lower Proterozoic basement and
metasediments. At Koongarra subsequent reverse faulting has juxtaposed the lower Cahill Formation schists and Kombolgie
Formation sandstone.Owing to the isoclinal recumbent folding of metasedimentary units of the Cahill Formation, the typical
rock sequence encountered at Koongarra is probably a tectono-stratigraphy (from youngest to oldest.)
muscovite-biotite-quartz-feldspar schist (at least 180 m thick)
garnet-muscovite-biotite-quartz schist (90100 m thick)
sulphide-rich graphite-mica-quartz schist (garnet) (about 25 m thick)
distinctive graphite-quartz-chlorite schist marker unit (58 m thick)
quartz-chlorite schist (illite, garnet, sillimanite, muscovite) (50 m thick)the mineralized zone
reverse fault breccia (57 m thick)
sandstone of the Kombolgie Formation
Polyphase deformation accompanied metamorphism of the original sediments, that were probably dolomite, shales and
siltstones. Johnston6 identified a D2 event as responsible for the dominant S 2 foliation of the schist sequence, which at
Koongarra dips at 55 to the south-east. The dominant structural feature, however, is the reverse fault system that dips at
about 60 to the south-east, sub-parallel to the dominant S2 foliation and lithological boundaries, just below the mineralized
zone.
The Uranium Deposit
There are two discrete uranium orebodies at Koongarra, separated by a 100 m wide barren zone. The main (No. 1) orebody
has a strike length of 450 m and persists to 100 m depth. Secondary uranium mineralization is present in the weathered
schists, from below the surficial sand cover to the base of weathering at depths varying between 25 and 30 m. This
secondary mineralization has been derived from decomposition and leaching of the primary mineralized zone, and forms a
tongue-like fan of ore-grade material dispersed down-slope for about 80 m to the south-east. The primary uranium
mineralized zone in cross-section is a series of partially coalescing lenses, which together form an elongated wedge dipping
at 55 to the south-east within the host quartz-chlorite schist unit, subparallel to the reverse fault. True widths average 30 m
at the top of the primary mineralized zone but taper out at about 100 m below surface and along strike.
Superimposed on the primary prograde metamorphic mineral assemblages of the host schist units is a distinct and
extensive primary alteration halo associated, and cogenetic, with the uranium mineralization. This alteration extends for up
to 1.5 km from the ore in a direction perpendicular to the host quartz-chlorite schist unit, because the mineralization is
essentially stratabound. The outer zone of the alteration halo is most extensively developed in the semi-pelitic schists, and is
manifested by the pseudomorphous replacement of biotite by chlorite, rutile and quartz, and feldspar by sericite. Silicification
has also occurred in fault planes and within the Kombolgie Formation sandstone beneath the mineralization, particularly
adjacent to the reverse fault.Association of this outer halo alteration with the mineralization is demonstrated by the apparent
symmetrical distribution of this alteration about the orebody. In the inner alteration zone, less than 50 m from ore, the
metamorphic rock fabric is disrupted, and quartz is replaced by pervasive chlorite and phengitic mica, and garnet by chlorite.
Uranium mineralization is only present where this alteration has taken place.The primary ore consists of uraninite veins and
veinlets (110 mm thick) that cross-cut the S 2 foliation of the brecciated and hydrothermally altered quartz-chlorite schist
host. Groups of uraninite veinlets are intimately intergrown with chlorite, which forms the matrix to the host breccias. Small
(10100 m) euhedral and subhedral uraninite grains are finely disseminated in the chloritic alteration adjacent to veins, but
these grains may coalesce to form clusters, strings, and massive uraninite. Coarse colloform and botryoidal uraninite
masses and uraninite spherules with internal lacework textures have also been noted, but the bulk of the ore appears to be
of the disseminated type, with thin (<0.5 mm) discontinuous wisps and streaks of uraninite, and continuous strings both
parallel and discordant to the foliation (S2), and parallel to phyllosilicate (001) cleavage planes.Associated with the ore are
minor volumes (up to 5%) of sulphides, which include galena and lesser chalcopyrite, bornite, and pyrite, with rare grains of
native gold, clausthalite (PbSe), gersdorffite-cobaltite (NiAsS-CoAsS) and mackinawite (Fe, Ni), S. Galena is the most

abundant, commonly occurring as cubes (510 m wide) disseminated in uraninite or gangue, and as stringers and veinlets
particularly filling thin fractures within uraninite. Galena may also overgrow clausthalite, and replace pyrite and chalcopyrite.
Chlorite, predominantly magnesium chlorite, is the principal gangue, and its intimate association with the uraninite indicates
that the two minerals formed together.Oxidation and alteration of uraninite within the primary ore zone has produced a
variety of secondary uranium minerals, principally uranyl silicates.7 Uraninite veins, even veins over 1 cm wide, have been
completely altered in situ. Within the primary ore zone this in situ replacement of uraninite is most pronounced immediately
above the reverse fault breccia, and this alteration and oxidation diminish upwards stratigraphically. It is accompanied by
hematite staining of the schists, the more intense hematite alteration in and near the reverse fault breccia being due to
hematite replacement of chlorite. The secondary mineralization of the dispersion fan in the weathered schist above the No. 1
orebody is characterized by uranyl phosphates found exclusively in the tail of the fan. Away from the tail uranium is
dispersed in the weathered schists and adsorbed onto clays and iron oxides.The age of the uranium mineralization is
problematic. The mineralization, however, must post-date both the Kombolgie Formation sandstone and the Koongarra
reverse fault, since it occupies the breccia zones generated by the post-Kombolgie reverse faulting. The pattern of alteration
which is intimately associated with the ore also crosses the reverse fault into the Kombolgie sandstone beneath the ore
zone, so this again implies that the ore was formed after the reverse fault and therefore is younger than both the Kombolgie
sandstone and the reverse fault. Because of these geological constraints, Page, Compston, and Needham8 suggested the
mineralization was younger than 16001688 Ma because of their determination of the timing of the Kombolgie Formation
deposition to that period. Sm-Nd isotopic data obtained on Koongarra uraninites9, 10 appears to narrow down the timing of
mineralization to 15501650 Ma. It is unclear as to when deep ground-water circulation began to cause oxidation and
alteration of the primary uraninite ore at depth, but Airey, Golian, and Lever11 suggest that the weathering of the primary ore
to produce the secondary dispersion fan in the weathered schists above the No. 1 orebody seems to have begun only in the
last 13 Ma.
U-Th-Pb Data
Dating of the primary ore
Hills and Richards12 isotopically analyzed individual grains of uraninite and galena that had been handpicked from drill core.
Only one of the five uraninite samples gave a near-concordant age of 862 Ma, that is, the sample plotted almost on the
standard concordia curve, and Hills and Richards13 interpreted this as recording fresh formation of Pb-free uraninite at 870
Ma. The other four uraninite samples all lie well below concordia and do not conform to any regular linear array. Hills and
Richards were left with two possible interpretations. On the one hand, preferential loss of the intermediate daughter products
of 238U (that is, escape of radon, a gas) would cause vertical displacement of points below an episodic-loss line, but this
would only produce a significant Pb isotopic effect if the loss had persisted for a very long proportion of the life of the
uraninite (which is incidentally not only feasible but likely). Alternatively, they suggested that contamination by small amounts
of an older (pre-900 Ma) Pb could cause such a pattern as on their concordia plot, to which they added mixing lines that
they postulated arose from the restoration to each uraninite sample of the galena which separated from it.This of course
assumes that the Pb in the galenas was also derived predominantly from uranium decay. They plotted their Pb ratios in all
their uraninite samples on a standard 207Pb/206Pb diagram, and contended that the pattern of data points did not conform to a
simple age interpretation. Instead, they contended that the scatter of points could be contained between two lines radiating
from the diagrams origin, lines that essentially represented isochrons for uraninites and galenas from the Ranger and
Nabarlek uranium deposits in the same geological region. From the positions of the Koongarra uraninites and galenas on
these diagrams they claimed that the galenas contained left-over radiogenic Pb from earlier uraninites as old as 17001800
Ma (the age of the Ranger uranium mineralization), these earlier uraninites being obliterated by the uranium having
remobilized at 870 Ma, the age of the lone Pb-free uraninite sample.In a separate study Carr and Dean14 isotopically
analyzed whole-rock samples from the Koongarra primary ore zone. These were samples of drill core that had been
crushed. Their isotopic data on four samples were plotted on a U-Pb isochron diagram and indicated a non-systematic
relationship between the 238U parent and the 206Pb daughter. In other words, the quantities of 206Pb could not simply be
accounted for by radioactive decay of 238U, implying open system behavior. They also plotted their four results on a
standard 207Pb/206Pb isochron diagram and found that these samples fell on a very poorly defined linear array whose
apparent age they did not quantify.
Dating of weathered rocks and soils
Carr and Dean15 also isotopically analyzed a further nine whole-rock samples from the weathered schist zone at
Koongarra. Some of these samples were again crushed drill core, but the majority were crushed percussion drill chips.
When their isotopic data were plotted on a U-Pb isochron diagram six of the nine samples plotted close to the reference
1000 Ma isochron, while the other three were widely scattered. However, on the 207Pb/206Pb diagram all nine weathered rock
samples plotted on a linear array which gave an apparent isochron age of 127050 Ma.In an unrelated investigation,
Dickson, Gulson, and Snelling16, 17 collected soil samples from above the mineralization at Koongarra and from
surrounding areas, and these were analyzed for Pb isotopes to see if there was any Pb-isotopic dispersion halo around the
mineralization sufficiently large enough to warrant the use of Pb-isotopic analyses of soils as an exploration technique to find
new uranium orebodies. The technique did in fact work, Pb-isotopic traces of the deeply buried No. 2 orebody mineralization
being found in the soils above. This mineralization, 40 m below the surface, is blind to other detection techniques.Dickson,
Gulson, and Snelling18 found that all 113 soil samples from their two studies were highly correlated (r = 0.99986) on a
standard 207Pb/206Pb diagram, yielding an apparent (false) isochron representing an age of 144520 Ma for the samples.
However, most of the soil samples consisted of detritus eroded from the Middle Proterozoic Kombolgie sandstone, so
because the samples from near the mineralization gave a radiogenic Pb signature Dickson et al. interpreted the false
isochron as being due to mixing of radiogenic Pb from the uranium mineralization with the common Pb from the
sandstone.
Discussion
Snelling19 has already highlighted a telling omission by Hills and Richards.20 Having included all the Pb isotopic ratios they
had obtained on their five uraninite samples, they tabulated also the derived ages, except for those obtainable from 208Pb.
These Th-derived dates should normally be regarded as the most reliable, since Th is less mobile in geochemical
environments and therefore open system behavior is less likely than for U. Significantly, three of the five uraninite samples
therefore give, within their experimental error, a 0 Ma age.21 In any case, their age of 17001800 Ma for the first
generation of uranium mineralization at Koongarra neither fits the geological criteria for an expected 15501600 Ma age,
nor does their 870 Ma date correlate with any geological event capable of remobilizing U and Pb to produce the presumed
second generation of uranium mineralization.Using Ludwig,22 standard 207Pb/206Pb diagrams were prepared for the
uraninite, galena, and whole-rock data sets, and combinations thereof, to check the regression statistics and possible
derived isochrons using the standard York23 method. In each case the mean square of weighted deviates (MSWD), which
tests the goodness of fit of data to a line, is large to extremely large, which reflects in the derived isochron ages of

841140 Ma (uraninites), 1008420 Ma (galenas), 668330 Ma (whole-rocks), 818150 Ma (uraninites plus galenas) and
863130 Ma (all three data sets combined), all ages being within the 95% confidence limits. It is perhaps fortuitously
significant that the combination of all three data sets yields an isochron age of 863130 Ma, almost identical to Hills and
Richards near-concordant age of 862 Ma, although this was using a line-fitting routine of Ludwig that assigns equal
weights and zero error-correlations to each data point to avoid the mistake of weighting the points according to analytical
errors when it is clear that some other cause of scatter is involved, which is clearly the case here. The normal York algorithm
assumes that the only cause for scatter from a straight line are the assigned errors, and for the combined data set here the
amount of scatter calculated thereby yields an astronomical MSWD of 669,000 and a bad line of fit that yields an isochron
age of 1632410 Ma. This result may make more geological sense, but the regression statistics are such that derivation
of any age information from these data is totally unjustified, even though it can be rightfully argued that these samples form
a cogenetic set (they are all samples of uranium ore or its components from the same primary ore zone at Koongarra).It is
not uncommon to find that ages derived from standard 207Pb/206Pb plots are erroneous, even though the data fit welldefined linear arrays (isochrons). Ludwig, Nash, and Naeser24 found that this was due to migration of both Pb and
radioactive daughters of 238U yielding a 207Pb/206Pb isochron giving superficially attractive results which would nonetheless
be seriously misleading because the derived age (in their example) was more than six times higher than the U-Pb
isochron age. Similarly, Cunningham et al.25 obtained 207Pb/206Pb isochron ages up to 50 times higher than those derived
from more reliable U-Pb isochrons for wholerock uranium ore samples, even though the apparent slight degree of scatter
is almost entirely a misleading artifact. Ironically, at Koongarra the U-Pb isochron using Ludwig 26 yields an age of
857149 Ma (with an MSWD of 13,400, tolerably large compared to that obtained with the Pb-Pb isochron), almost identical
to the fortuitous Pb-Pb isochron age obtained using Ludwigs modified algorithm on the combined three data sets
(863130 Ma), as well as Hills and Richards single near-concordant 862 Ma age.Snelling and Dickson27 demonstrated
that there is significant radiometric disequilibrium in the primary ore and surrounding host rocks at Koongarra due to the
redistribution of both U and its Ra decay product. That Ra mobility at depth in the primary ore zone is currently more
significant than U migration was confirmed by Dickson and Snelling,28which of course results ultimately in the redistribution
of 206Pb, the end-member of the whole 238U decay chain. Dickson, Giblin, and Snelling29 and Dickson, Gulson, and
Snelling30 demonstrated that Ra is transported through the unweathered rocks in this area in the ground waters, while
Davey, Dudaitis, and OBrien31 determined the emanation rate of radon gas from the Koongarra No. 1 orebody, an everpresent hazard in uranium ore mining operations. The radon gas is known to migrate along fractures and rise through the
ground over considerable distances to form a halo in the air above, while radon is also transported in ground waters.These
observations alone demonstrate the open-system behavior of the U-Th-Pb system that renders meaningless any age
information derived. However, both Hills32 and Snelling33 34 have recognized that U also has migrated on a considerable
scale in the primary ore zone, since supergene uraninites, often with colloform banding, are found as fracture and cavity
infillings, and between quartz and gangue grain boundaries. The unit cell dimensions of these uraninites, plus this textural
evidence, supports the conclusion that these uraninites have precipitated after dissolution of earlier formed uraninite and
transportation in low-temperature ground waters. With such wholesale migration of U also, all attempts at dating must be
rendered useless, especially when whole-rock samples, in which different generations of uraninites are lumped together, are
used.In contrast to the poor-fitting linear arrays produced from the Pb-Pb data of minerals and whole-rocks from the primary
ore zone, that all appear to give an apparent (false) isochron age grouped around 857863 Ma, both Carr and Dean35 and
Dickson, Gulson, and Snelling36 found that weathered whole-rock and soil samples produced good fitting linear arrays that
would normally represent isochrons that yield ages of 1270 Ma and 1445 Ma respectively. The weathered whole-rock
samples all of course come from Koongarra itself, and consist of secondary ore samples from the weathered schist zone,
plus weathered schist samples that contain uranium dispersed down-slope by ground waters moving through the weathered
rock. Because these whole-rock samples come from a volume of rock through which U is known to be migrating, leading to
redistribution not only of U but of its decay products, it is therefore very surprising to find that these whole-rock samples
define a good enough linear array to yield an isochron. Even the observed scatter calculated using Ludwig37 is much less
than that associated with fitting an isochron to the 207Pb-206Pb data from the primary ore zone samples, which is again
surprising given U migration in the weathered zone, the data from which one would expect to show considerable scatter and
thus no age consensus. Furthermore, it is baffling as to why the isochron-derived age should be so much older than
the age of the primary ore, which of course is ultimately the source through weathering and ground-water transport of the
U, decay products and the stable Pb isotopes. Perhaps the only explanation is that the isochron represents the mixing of
radiogenic Pb from the mineralization with the common or background Pb in the surrounding schists.The idea of such an
isochron being a mixing line was suggested by Dickson, Gulson, and Snelling.38 They were however, dealing with the Pb
isotopic data obtained from soil samples collected from depths of only about 3040 cm, the majority of which represented
sandy soils consisting of detritus eroded from the Kombolgie sandstone. For this mixing explanation to be feasible there
should be some other evidence of mobilization of Pb in the area. Dickson, Gulson, and Snelling found that not only were
there high 206Pb/204Pb ratios in three of their soil samples from the near-surface (01 m) zone south of the No. 1 orebody, but
there was a lack of any other Useries daughter products in the same samples. This near-surface zone is inundated for
approximately six months of the year as a result of the high monsoonal rainfall in this tropical area. Towards the end of the
ensuing six-month dry season, the water table has been known to drop in some cases more than ten meters from its wet
season high. This means that the top of the weathered schist zone is regularly fluctuating between wet and dry conditions,
so that any trace elements such as Pb leached from the weathered ore and transported by ground water in the weathered
schist zone would also be dispersed vertically up into the thin surficial sand cover on top of the weathered schistthe sandy
soils that were sampled by Dickson, Gulson, and Snelling.39, 40 Snelling41 found that Pb was a significant pathfinder
element for uranium ore in the Koongarra environment, anomalous Pb being present in the surficial sand cover above the
zone of weathered primary ore, and that there was even hydrodynamic dispersal of Pb at a depth of 0.51.5 m. Dickson,
Gulson, and Snelling42 found a similarity between the isotopic ratios for Pb extracted from their soil samples by either a mild
HCI-hydroxylamine (pH 1) or a strong 7M HCI-7M HNO3 leach, which indicates that Pb is loosely attached to sand grain
surfaces in the samples rather than tightly bound in silicate or resistate mineral lattices. This in turn suggests Pb is adsorbed
from ground waters, meaning that radiogenic Pb is being added to the common or background Pb in the sand by both
vertical and lateral ground-water dispersion.However, not all of Dickson, Gulson and Snellings soil samples came from the
immediate area to the Koongarra orebodies, nor were they all the samples of Kombolgie sandstone detritus. That this mixing
line explanation for the apparent isochron is clearly demonstrated for these samples from the immediate Koongarra area is
not in question, although it is somewhat surprising that these soil samples should give an apparent isochron age
somewhat higher than that obtained from the weathered schist samples beneath. Indeed, the common or background Pb in
the respective samples should reflect an older apparent age in the schists compared to the sandstone, due to their relative
ages based on geological relationships between them. However, the apparent ages are the other way around, the sandy
soils yielding an older apparent age compared to that yielded by the weathered schists. Perhaps this difference is a

reflection of the extent of mixing in each type of sample at their respective levels in the weathering profile. Nevertheless,
what is astounding is that Dickson, Gulson, and Snelling43 found that even though several of their soil samples consisted of
weathered schist or basement granite (containing accessory zircon) up to 17 km from the known uranium mineralization,
they still plotted on the same apparent isochron. Indeed, the fit is comparatively good, as indicated by the MSWD of only
964 using Ludwig,44 yet much of this observed scattered can be attributed to two samples out of the 113, one of which was
subsequently known to be probably contaminated by cuttings from an adjacent drill hole.45 If that sample is removed from
the regression analysis the MSWD drops to 505, indicating that almost half of the observed scatter is due to that one data
point alone. If the data point that is the next worst for fitting to the apparent isochron is removed, then the MSWD drops by
a further 315 to a mere 190. Yet in both cases the apparent isochron or mixing line still has lying on or close to it the
samples from up to 17 km away from the known uranium mineralization and the samples that are not Kombolgie sandstone
detritus. The final isochron fitted to the remaining 111 samples still yields an age of 142018 Ma.
While Carr and Deans46 nine weathered whole-rock samples are not strictly cogenetic with Dickson, Gulson and Snellings
113 soil samples, the two sample sets are obviously related because the source of the radiogenic Pb in the majority of the
soil samples from the immediate Koongarra area is the same as that in the weathered rocks. Not surprisingly, when the
regression analysis was performed on Carr and Deans nine weathered wholerock samples using Ludwig,47 the MSWD for
the observed scatter was 24,100, indicating a poor fit to an isochron which yielded an age of 1287120 Ma. Yet when
these nine samples were added to the 113 soil samples the MSWD dropped substantially to 1210, and not surprisingly the
fitted isochron yielded an age of 134627 Ma, an isochron age intermediate between those of the two data sets being
combined. However, when the two soil samples responsible for the majority of the scatter in that data set were removed the
MSWD dropped to 430 and yielded an isochron age of 133617 Ma.As with all the other apparent isochron ages this
result has no apparent geological meaning, because there is no geological event to which these ages might correlate.
Indeed, even in the evolutionary time frame the weathering of the Koongarra uranium mineralization is extremely recent,
and in any case these ages derived from Pb-Pb isochrons from the weathered rock and soil samples are much older
than the supposedly more reliable U-Pb isochron age of the Koongarra primary ore. But since that latter result has no
apparent geological meaning, because it also cannot be correlated with any known geological event, nothing then is certain
at all from any of these U-Th-Pb isotopic studies of the Koongarra ores, rocks, and surrounding soils. Indeed, it is just as
certain that the primary ore is 0 years old, based on three 232Th/208Pb single sample ages, as is the claim that one nearconcordant result means that there was formation of Pb-free uraninite at 870 Ma. After all, this postulated formation of Pbfree uraninite is supposed to have occurred in an environment where there was Pb left over from an earlier 17001800 Ma
original uranium mineralization for which we no longer have any evidence, textural or otherwise, apart from a rather tenuous
interpretation of Pb isotopic evidence that has otherwise shown itself to be devoid of any capability of providing any age
information.All these results raise serious fundamental questions about the claimed validity of the U-Th-Pb dating method.
It may seem reasonable to regard an apparent isochron as a mixing line within the restricted area close to the known
source of radiogenic Pb, which can be shown by independent evidence to be migrating into rocks and soils that contain
common or background Pb in the immediate environs. However, it strains all credulity to suggest that a false isochron
through a data set derived from samples representing a variety of rock types, of significantly different evolutionary ages,
over an area of up to 17 km lateral extent from the known radiogenic Pb source, can still represent mixing! One can only
conclude that all assumptions used to derive the estimates of common or background Pb, including models for the
supposed evolution of the stable Pb isotopes through earth history, from their presumed commencement on the protoearth
with its claimed original Pb isotope content some 4.6 billion or so years ago, cannot be valid. Equally, we cannot be sure
what the U-Th-Pb systems isotopic ratios really mean, because the basic assumptions that are foundational to the
interpretation of these isotopic ratios are fatally flawed. Not only has open system behavior of these isotopes been
demonstrated as the norm, but even where there is an apparent isochron with an excellent goodness of fit the derived
age is invariably geologically meaningless. Thus creationists need not be hindered in their building of the creation-Flood
young-earth model for the geological record by the many claims in the open geological literature that U-Th-Pb radiometric
dating has proved the presumed great antiquity of the earth, and the strata and fossils of the so-called geological column.
Conclusion
The concerns raised by Zheng48 regarding U-Pb isochrons are warranted. At Koongarra a 207Pb/206Pb isochron produced
from 11 hand-picked uraninite and galena grains, plus four whole-rock samples, yields an age of 863 Ma, the same as a
near-concordant age from one of the uraninite grains. Nine weathered wholerock samples yield an isochron age of 1270
Ma, while 113 soil samples produce an excellent isochron with an age of 1445 Ma. All of these ages are geologically
meaningless. While the apparent isochron produced by the soil samples may be identified as a mixing line, produced by the
mixing of radiogenic Pb with common or background Pb in the surrounding rocks and soils, even this explanation strains
credulity because the samples come from up to 17 km away from known uranium mineralization, and a few of the soil
samples represent different rock types. Not only then has open system behavior of these isotopes been demonstrated, but
apparent isochrons and their derived ages are invariably geologically meaningless. Thus none of the assumptions used
to interpret the U-Th-Pb isotopic system to yield ages can be valid. If these assumptions were valid, then the 232Th/208Pb
age of 0 Ma for three of the five uraninite samples should be taken seriously. Creationists should therefore not be
intimidated by claims that U-Th-Pb radiometric dating has proved the presumed great antiquity of the earth, and the
strata and fossils of the so-called geological column.

The Failure of U-Th-Pb Dating at Koongarra, Australia


by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on April 1, 1995
Originally published in Journal of Creation 9, no 1: 71-92.
Abstract
As with other radiometric dating methods, the U-Pb and Pb-Pb isochron methods have been questioned in the open
literature, because often an excellent line of best fit between ratios obtained from a set of good cogenetic samples gives a
resultant isochron and yields a derived age that has no geological meaning. At the Koongarra uranium deposit, Australia,
there is ample evidence of open system behaviour, or repeated migration, of U and Pb ore textures, mineral chemistry,
supergene alteration, uranium/daughter disequilibrium, and groundwater and soil geochemistry. Yet U-Th-Pb isotopic studies
of the uranium ore, host rocks and soils have produced an array of false isochrons that yield ages which are geologically
meaningless. Even a claimed near-concordant U- Pb age of 862 Ma (million years) on one uraninite grain is identical to a
false Pb-Pb isochron age but neither can be connected to any geological event. The open system behaviour of the U-ThPb system is clearly the norm, as is the resultant mixing of radiogenic Pb with common or background Pb, even in soils in
the surrounding region, apparently even up to 17 km away! Because no geologically meaningful results can be interpreted

from the U-Th-Pb data at Koongarra (three uraninite grains even yield a 232Th/208Pb age of 0 Ma), serious questions must
be asked about the validity of the fundamental/foundational basis of the U-Th-Pb dating method. This makes the task of
creationists building their model for the geological record much easier, since claims of U-Th-Pb radiometric dating having
proven the claimed great antiquity of the earth, its strata and fossils can be justifiably ignored.
Introduction
Radiometric dating has now been used for almost 50 years to establish beyond doubt the multi-billion year age of the
earths geological column. Although this column and its age was firmly settled well before the advent of radiometric dating,
the latter has been used to quantify the, ages of the strata and the fossils in the column, so that in many peoples minds
today radiometric dating has proved the presumed antiquity of the earth.However, it is important to remember that all
radiometric dating methods are based on three main assumptions:The physico-chemical system must have always been closed. Thus no parent, daughter or other decay products within the
system can have been removed, and no parent, daughter or other decay products from outside the system can have been
added.The system must initially have contained none of its daughter elements or decay products, or at the very least we
need to know the starting conditions/state of the decay system.
The decay rate, referred to as the half-life of the radioactive parent element, must have always been the same, that is,
constant.
The highly speculative nature of all radiometric dating methods becomes apparent when one realizes that none of the above
assumptions is either valid or provable. Put simply, none of these assumptions can have been observed to have always
been true throughout the supposed millions of years the radioactive elements have presumed to have been decaying.
Of the various radiometric methods, uranium-thorium- lead (U-Th-Pb) was the first used and it is still widely employed today,
particularly when zircons are present in the rocks to be dated. But the method does not always give the expected results,
leading to fundamental questions about its validity. Indeed, the U- Th-Pb system is well known to be prone to open system
behaviour, with U being particularly geochemically mobile, meaning that U is readily lost from the crystal lattices of the
minerals used for dating, including zircons. Pb is also prone to diffusion from minerals. Thus it is questionable as to why
this radiometric dating method is still used. Instead, it is increasingly being applied in more sophisticated ways to
geological dating problems.
In the conclusion to a recent paper exposing shortcomings and criticising the validity of the popular rubidium-strontium (RbSr) isochron method, Zheng wrote:
. . . some of the basic assumptions of the conventional Rb-Sr isochron method have to be modified and an observed
isochron does not certainly define a valid age information for a geological system, even if a goodness of fit of the
experimental data points is obtained in plotting 87Sr/86Sr vs. 87Rb/86Sr. This problem cannot be overlooked, especially in
evaluating the numerical time scale. Similar questions can also arise in applying Sm-Nd and U-Pb isochron methods1
Amongst the concerns voiced by Zheng were the problems being found with anomalous isochrons, that is, where there is an
apparent linear relationship between 87Sr/86Sr and 87Rb/86Sr ratios, even an excellent line of best fit between ratios obtained
from good cogenetic samples, and yet the resultant isochron and derived age have no distinct geological meaning. Zheng
documented the copious reporting of this problem in the literature where various names had been given to these anomalous
isochrons, such as apparent isochron, mantle isochron and pseudoisochron; secondary isochron, inherited isochron, source
isochron, erupted isochron, mixing line, and mixing isochron.Similar anomalous or false isochrons are commonly obtained
from U- Th-Pb data, which is hardly surprising given the common open system behaviour of the U- Th-Pb system. Yet in the
literature these problems are commonly glossed over or pushed aside, but their increasing occurrence from a variety of
geological settings does seriously raise the question as to whether U-Th-Pb data ever yields any valid age information.
One such geological setting that yields these false U -Th -Pb ages and isochrons is the Koongarra uranium deposit and
the surrounding area (Northern Territory, Australia).

Figure 1. Regional geology map showing the location of the Koongarra uranium deposit

Figure 2. Local geology map showing the location of the Koongarra No. 1 and No. 2 orebodies. Because of surficial cover
the geological units and outline of the mineralisation are projected to the surface from the base of weathering.
The Koongarra Area
The Koongarra area is 250 km east of Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia) at latitude 1252S and longitude 13250E. The
regional geology has been described in detail by Needham and Stuart-Smith 2 and by Needham3,4 (see Figure 1), while
Snelling5 describes the Koongarra uranium deposit and the areas local geology (see Figure 2).
The Koongarra uranium deposit occurs in a metamorphic terrain that has an Archaean basement consisting of domes of
granitoids and granitic gneisses (the Nanambu Complex), the nearest outcrop being 5 km to the north (see Figure 1). Some
of the lowermost overlying Lower Proterozoic metasediments were accreted to these domes during amphibolite grade
regional metamorphism (estimated to represent conditions of 5-8 kb and 550-630 C) at 1800- 1870 Ma (million years ago,
according to conventional evolutionary dating). Multiple isoclinal recumbent folding accompanied metamorphism. The Lower
Proterozoic Cahill Formation flanking the Nanambu Complex has been divided into two members. The lower member is
dominated by a thick basal dolomite and passes transitionally upwards into the psammitic upper member, which is largely
feldspathic schist and quartzite. The uranium mineralisation at Koongarra is associated with graphitic horizons within
chloritised quartz-mica (feldspar garnet) schists overlying the basal dolomite in the lower member (see Figures 2 and 3).
A 150 Ma period of weathering and erosion followed metamorphism. A thick sequence of essentially flat-lying sandstones
(the Middle Proterozoic Kombolgie Formation) was then deposited unconformably on the Archaean-Lower Proterozoic
basement and metasediments. At Koongarra subsequent reverse faulting has juxtaposed the lower Cahill Formation schists
and Kombolgie Formation sandstone.

Figure 3. Simplified cross section through the No. 1 orebody, Koongarra, showing geology, distribution of uranium minerals
and alteration, and present groundwater flow.
Owing to the isoclinal recumbent folding of metasedimentary units of the Cahill Formation, the typical rock sequence
encountered at Koongarra is probably a tectono-stratigraphy (see Figure 3):Hanging Wall

-muscovite-biotite-quartz-feldspar schist (at least 180m thick)


-garnet-muscovite-biotite-quartz schist (9-100 m thick)
-sulphide-rich graphite-mica-quartz schist (garnet) (about 25 m thick)
-distinctive graphite-quartz-chlorite schist marker unit (5-8 m thick)

Mineralised
Zone

-quartz-chlorite schist (illite, garnet, sillimanite, muscovite) (50 m thick)

Footwall

-reverse fault breccia (5-7m thick)


-sandstone of the Kombolgie Formation

Polyphase deformation accompanied metamorphism of the original sediments, that were probably dolomite, shales and
siltstones. Johnston6 identified a D2 event as responsible for the dominant S2 foliation of the schist sequence, which at
Koongarra dips at 55 to the south-east The dominant structural feature, however, is the reverse fault system that dips at
about 60 to the south-east, sub-parallel to the dominant S2 foliation and lithological boundaries, just below the mineralised
zone.
The Uranium Deposit
There are two discrete uranium orebodies at Koongarra, separated by a 100 m wide barren zone (see Figure 2). The main
(No.1) orebody has a strike length of 450 m and persists to 100 m depth. Secondary uranium mineralisation is present in the
weathered schists, from below the surficial sand cover to the base of weathering at depths varying between 25 and 30 m
(see Figure 3). This secondary mineralisation has been derived from decomposition and leaching of the primary mineralised
zone, and forms a tongue-like fan of ore-grade material dispersed down-slope for about 80 m to the southeast. The primary
uranium mineralised zone in cross-section is a series of partially coalescing lenses, which together form an elongated
wedge dipping at 55 to the southeast within the host quartz-chlorite schist unit, sub-parallel to the reverse fault. True widths
average 30 m at the top of the primary mineralised zone but taper out at about 100 m below the surface and along
strike.Superimposed on the primary prograde metamorphic mineral assemblages of the host schist units is a distinct and
extensive primary alteration halo associated, and cogenetic, with the uranium mineralisation (see Figure 3). This alteration
extends for up to 1.5 km from the ore in a direction perpendicular to the host quartz-chlorite schist unit, because the
mineralisation is essentially stratabound. The outer zone of the alteration halo is most extensively developed in the semipelitic schists, and is manifested by the pseudomorphous replacement of biotite by chlorite, rutile and quartz, and feldspar
by sericite. Silicification has also occurred in fault planes and within the Kombolgie Formation sandstone beneath the
mineralisation, particularly adjacent to the reverse fault. Association of this outer halo alteration with the mineralisation is
demonstrated by the apparent symmetrical distribution of this alteration about the orebody. In the inner alteration zone, less
than 50 m from ore; the metamorphic rock fabric is disrupted, and quartz is replaced by pervasive chlorite and phengitic
mica, and garnet by chlorite. Uranium mineralisation is only present where this alteration has taken place.The primary ore
consists of uraninite veins and veinlets (1-10 mm thick) that cross-cut the S 2 foliation of the brecciated and hydrothermally
altered quartz-chlorite schist host. Groups of uraninite veinlets are intimately intergrown with chlorite, which forms the matrix
to the host breccias. Small (10-100 mm) euhedral and subhedral uraninite grains are finely disseminated in the chloritic
alteration adjacent to veins, but these grains may coalesce to form clusters, strings and massive uraninite. Coarse colloform
and botryoidal uraninite masses and uraninite spherules with internal lacework textures have also been noted, but the bulk
of the ore appears to be of the disseminated type, with thin (< 0.5 mm) discontinuous wisps and streaks of uraninite, and
continuous strings both parallel and discordant to the foliation (S 2), and parallel to phyllosilicate (001) cleavage
planes.Associated with the ore are minor volumes (up to 5%) of sulphides, which include galena and lesser chalcopyrite,
bornite and pyrite, with rare grains of native gold, clausthalite (PbSe), gersdorffite-cobaltite (NiAsS-CoAsS) and mackinawite

(Fe, Ni)1.1S. Galena is the most abundant, commonly occurring as cubes (5-10 mm wide) disseminated in uraninite or
gangue, and as stringers and veinlets particularly filling thin fractures within uraninite. Galena may also overgrow
clausthalite, and replace pyrite and chalcopyrite. Chlorite, predominantly magnesium chlorite, is the principal gangue, and its
intimate association with the uraninite indicates that the two minerals formed together.Oxidation and alteration of uraninite
within the primary ore zone has produced a variety of secondary uranium minerals, principally uranyl silicates. 7 Uraninite
veins, even veins over 1 cm wide, have been completely altered in situ. Within the primary ore zone this in situ replacement
of uraninite is most pronounced immediately above the reverse fault breccia, and this alteration and oxidation diminish
upwards stratigraphically. It is accompanied by hematite staining of the schists, the more intense hematite alteration in and
near the reverse fault breccia being due to hematite replacement of chlorite. The secondary mineralisation of the dispersion
fan in the weathered schist above the No.1 orebody is characterised by uranyl phosphates found exclusively in the tail of
the fan. Away from the tail uranium is dispersed in the weathered schists and adsorbed onto clays and iron oxides.The age
of the uranium mineralisation is problematical. The mineralisation, however, must post-date both the Kombolgie Formation
sandstone and the Koongarra reverse fault, since it occupies the breccia zones generated by the post Kombolgie reverse
faulting. The pattern of alteration which is intimately associated with the ore also crosses the reverse fault into the
Kombolgie sandstone beneath the ore zone, so this again implies that the ore was formed after the reverse fault and
therefore is younger than both the Kombolgie sandstone and the reverse fault. Because of these geological constraints,
Page et al.8 suggested the mineralisation was younger than 1600-1688 Ma because of their determination of the timing of
the Kombolgie Formation deposition to that period. Sm-Nd isotopic data obtained on Koongarra uraninites9,10 appears to
narrow down the timing of mineralisation to 1550-1650 Ma. It is unclear as to when deep groundwater circulation began to
cause oxidation and alteration of the primary uraninite ore at depth, but Airey et al.11 suggest that the weathering of the
primary ore to produce the secondary dispersion fan in the weathered schists above the No.1 orebody seems to have begun
only in the last 1- 3Ma.
Evidence Of An Open System
There are five main lines of independent evidence that the mineral-rock systems at Koongarra have been open to diffusion
and migration of U, Th and daughter isotopes including Pb. Such behaviour of these isotopes has crucial implications to all
attempts to date the Koongarra uranium ore using the U- Th-Pb isotopic systems.
(1) Ore Textures
Mineralogical and textural studies of the ore under both optical and scanning electron microscopes 12,13 indicate that there
have been as many as three remobilisations of the uranium during the history of the ore. Pb has likewise been mobile. That
is, both the primary U and Pb minerals, uraninite and galena respectively, have been dissolved and
redeposited/recrystallised, often some distance away from their original locations. This is shown diagrammatically in Figure
4 as several generations of uraninite and galena.

Figure 4. Paragenesis diagram showing the stages of formation and development of the minerals comprising the Koongarra
uranium deposit.
Figures 5-10 illustrate examples of the ore textures under the microscopes, the accompanying descriptions indicating how
the textures have been interpreted.

Figure 5. Remobilisation and redeposition of uraninite (white mineral). Photomicrograph shows uraninite veins (left and
right) partially destroyed by dissolution of uranium which has been redeposited as scattered veinlets and shapeless masses
of a new generation of uraninite (middle). (Magnification 10X).
Figure 6. Uraninite (light grey) has been dissolved and redeposited as thin veinlets and shapeless masses within a chlorite
(dark grey) matrix which is also replacing the main uraninite grain. (Magnification 120X).
Figure 7. Two generations of uraninite grains (lighter grey), and more oxidised supergene veins and patches (darker grey).
The small scattered white grains are galena. (Magnification 200X).
Figure 8. Two generations of uraninite grains (white, left of photomicrograph) and later thin supergene encrustations (mid
grey) around quartz grains (dark grey). The very bright mineral (right) is galena which has similarly dissolved and
redeposited. (Magnification 200X).
Figure
9. Remobilised
uraninite
(light
grey)
deposited
as
scattered
grains with a chlorite (dark
grey) matrix. A remobilised
galena vein (white-grey)
cuts across the uraninitechlorite
association.
(Magnification 50X).
Figure 10. An enlarged view
of uraninite (dark grey) subgrains within a larger vein.
Galena (light grey) veinlets
which both cross-cut and separate the uraninite sub-grains. The Pb in the galena is supposed to have migrated from the
uraninite where it was supposedly produced by radioactive decay. (Magnification 50X).
PS 17860/1

PS 17863/4

UO2

89.17

89.43

89.65

89.86

90.70

91.14

91.27

91.29

92.20

89.77

88.91

PbO

7.67

7.22

6.67

6.14

5.93

5.31

4.92

4.57

5.70

5.65

4.66

CaO

1.64

1.77

1.73

1.82

1.83

1.79

1.80

2.13

0.38

0.38

0.27

SiO2

0.39

0.42

0.43

0.46

0.53

0.57

0.56

0.50

0.24

1.00

2.34

SFe(FeO) 0.45

0.44

0.46

0.49

0.44

0.46

0.45

0.46

l.d.

0.11

0.46

MnO

MgO

l.d.

0.11

l.d.

l.d.

0.11

0.11

l.d.

0.12

0.39

0.94

1.86

P2 O5

0.21

0.21

0.19

0.16

0.23

0.18

0.23

0.30

0.13

0.17

0.13

Total

99.53

99.60

99.13

98.93

99.77

99.56

99.23

99.37

99.04

98.02

98.91

PS 17862/3
1

10

UO2

85.58

86.35

86.45

86.96

87.26

88.04

88.48

89.63

89.81

86.64

PbO

11.29

10.69

10.25

9.86

9.24

8.48

7.93

6.73

6.27

6.79

CaO

1.68

1.51

1.56

1.58

1.64

1.74

1.86

1.83

2.09

1.81

SiO2

0.50

0.41

0.46

0.47

0.45

0.46

0.53

0.60

0.63

0.78

SFe(FeO) 0.56

0.48

0.52

0.49

0.50

0.46

0.45

0.47

0.58

2.09

MnO

0.38

0.35

0.38

0.36

0.36

0.40

0.36

0.30

0.35

0.29

MgO

0.24

0.17

0.13

0.13

0.12

0.10

0.15

0.15

l.d.

0.18

P2 O5

0.16

0.14

0.17

0.13

0.14

0.17

0.12

0.17

0.19

1.14

Total

100.39

100.10

99.92

99.98

99.71

99.85

99.80

99.88

99.92

99.72

PS 17865/6
1

10

11

UO2

85.40

85.97

86.47

86.46

87.07

87.79

88.53

89.14

89.30

90.24

90.52

PbO

12.22

11.21

10.73

10.14

9.43

8.79

8.31

7.83

7.20

6.24

5.93

CaO

1.17

1.45

1.33

1.90

1.79

1.79

1.81

1.99

2.02

2.01

1.95

SiO2

0.33

0.36

0.36

0.49

0.51

0.47

0.52

0.49

0.43

0.58

0.48

SFe(FeO) 0.37

0.39

0.36

0.48

0.53

0.49

0.51

0.47

0.56

0.47

0.45

MnO

0.27

0.31

0.31

0.34

0.37

0.32

0.30

0.35

0.34

0.38

0.35

MgO

0.34

0.26

0.28

0.23

0.16

0.18

0.18

0.13

0.28

0.13

0.18

P2 O5

0.13

0.12

0.15

0.15

0.16

0.14

0.15

0.14

0.16

l.d.

0.16

Total

100.23

100.07

99.63

100.19

99.89

99.97

100.31

100.54

100.29

100.05

100.02

PS 17867/8

PS 17868/9

UO2

84.81

85.13

86.24

89.03

89.54

85.12

86.77

81.34

82.41

PbO

10.49

9.11

8.30

5.19

5.14

8.34

9.36

11.46

10.29

CaO

1.37

1.89

1.86

2.70

3.15

4.68

2.17

3.77

4.06

SiO2

2.38

1.35

1.54

1.20

0.85

0.83

0.70

1.20

0.99

SFe(FeO) 0.33

0.44

0.34

0.43

0.52

l.d.

0.53

l.d.

ll.d.

MnO

MgO

0.54

0.17

0.20

0.10

l.d.

0.19

0.11

0.12

0.16

P2 O5

l.d.

l.d.

0.14

0.14

0.11

0.56

l.d.

0.43

0.50

Total

99.92

98.09

98.62

98.79

99.31

99.72

99.64

98.32

98.41

[_ denotes not measured; l.d. denotes less than detection limits]


Table 1. Analyses of some representative Koongarra uraninites.
(2) Mineral Chemistry
Uraninite compositions in the ore are never uniform. Electron microprobe analyses of uraninite grains and veins, 13 that is,
micro-analyses of volumes of uraninite between 5 and 10 mm in diameter (see Table 1), reveal that uraninite compositions,
particularly U, Pb and Ca contents, vary not only from grain to grain within anyone sample regardless of which generation of
uraninite it is, but even at the microscopic level within uraninite grains themselves. Figure 11 illustrates how Pb and Ca have
both substituted for U in the UO2 cubic lattice in varying amounts across the uraninite veins and grains.

Figure 11. Compositional traverse across a uraninite grain similar to those in Figure 10.
Uranium - Lead Oxides
Curite

2PbO.5UO3.4H2O

Fourmarierite

PbO.4UO3.4H2O

Vandendriesscheite

PbO.7UO3.12H2O

Uranyl Silicates
Kasolite

Pb(UO2)SiO4.H2O

Sklodowskite

Mg(UO2)2Si2O7.6H2O

Uranophane

Ca(UO2)2Si2O7.6H2O

Uranyl Phosphates
Saleeite

Mg(UO2)2(PO4)2.8-10H2O

Sabugalite

HAl(UO2)4(PO4)4.16H2O

Metatorbernite

Cu(UO2)2(PO4)4.8H2O

Torbernite

Cu(UO2)2(PO4)2.8-12H2O

Renardite

Pb(UO2)4(PO4)2(OH)4.7H2O

Dewindtite

Pb(UO2)2(PO4)2.3H2O

Uranyl Sulphate
Cu(UO2)4(SO4)2(OH)2.6H2O

Johannite

Uranyl Vanadates
Carnotite - Tyuamunite

K2(UO2)2(VO4)2.3H2O-Ca(UO2)2(VO4)2.5-8H2O

Table 2. The secondary uranium minerals at Koongarra.


(3) Supergene Alteration
As has already been briefly noted, supergene alteration (principally oxidation) of uraninite has not only occurred where the
zone of surficial weathering has intersected the top of the No.1 orebody, but at depth within the primary ore. Uraninite grains
and veins have been replaced by colourful secondary uranium minerals (see Table 2), their occurrence and compositions
depending on the chemistries of the immediate rock/mineral environments and the circulating ground waters (see Figures 3
and 12). The net result has been the complete destruction of the uraninite in what was the top of the No.1 orebody, with its
replacement (sometimes in situ) by uranyl silicate or uranyl phosphate minerals (usually the latter), and the dispersion of the
rest of the U over distances of up to 50 m or more down-slope by ground waters in the weathered zone. Additionally, at the
same time there has been yet another remobilisation of both U and Pb in the primary ore zones, with in situ replacement of
uraninite (see Figures 13-15) and deposition of supergene uraninite (see Figure 16) and the uranyl silicate minerals
sklodowskite and uranophane (see Figures 17 and 18) from the U in solution from circulating ground waters (see Figure 3
again).7 Electron microprobe analyses (see Table 3) show that the U and Pb contents have decreased as uraninites were
altered to uranyl silicates, while the iron and manganese oxides lining fractures in the host rocks have absorbed the U and
Pb that had been dissolved during the oxidation of the uraninites and migrated in the circulating ground waters (see Table
4).
Figure 12. Schematic diagram showing the paths of secondary uranium mineral from uraninite in the Koongarra uranium
deposit.
Figure 13. Kasolite (white) and uranophane (grey) replacing a former uraninite vein. Note that the former vein shape, even
the sub-grains, have essentially been preserved.
(SEM magnification 210X; scale bar microns.)
Figure 14. Globular uraninite mass (black shape
just to the left of center) being altered marginally
to sklowdowskite (grey concentric sheath).
(Magnification 2X; scale bar 3 mm.)
Figure 15. Kasolite (light grey) and sklodowskite
(dark grey) replacing a former uraninite vein.
(SEM magnification 210X.)
Figure
16. Supergene
colloform
banded
uraninite (grey) deposited in what was originally a void. The banding is produced by a time sequence of uraninite deposition.
(SEM magnification 840X.)
Figure 17. A sklodowskite (white) vein composed of radiating aggregates of
needle-shaped crystals.
(SEM magnification 220X;
scale bar 50 microns.)
Figure
18. Uranophane
(white) veinlets deposited
between quartz (grey)
grain boundaries. (SEM
magnification 220X; scale
bar 50 microns.)

PS 17867/8: Uraninite Uranophane-Sklodowskite


1

UO2

84.81

85.13

86.24

76.74

69.58

66.45

PbO

10.49

9.11

8.30

8.99

1.05

0.15

CaO

1.37

1.89

1.86

2.89

4.89

3.86

SiO2

2.38

1.35

1.54

5.53

12.06

14.83

SFe(FeO) 0.33

0.44

0.34

0.29

0.70

l.d.

MgO

0.54

0.17

0.20

0.75

1.16

4.76

Al2O3

0.11

l.d.

l.d.

0.75

l.d.

0.31

P2 O5

l.d.

l.d.

0.14

0.36

0.35

0.34

V2 O3

l.d.

l.d.

l.d.

0.24

0.31

l.d.

Total

100.03

98.09

98.62

96.54

90.10

90.70

12.00
CAS 195: Uraninite Uranophane-Sklodowskite
1

UO2

82.18

85.49

86.22

88.27

90.53

63.74

68.76

66.50

66.44

PbO

11.55

9.34

7.93

6.39

4.65

9.83

4.48

3.55

1.60

CaO

3.08

2.80

3.15

3.13

3.06

2.34

2.98

2.77

2.86

SiO2

1.48

1.66

1.64

1.50

1.14

11.58

9.95

12.30

SFe(FeO) 0.80

0.40

0.88

0.39

0.41

0.87

0.20

0.23

l.d.

MgO

l.d.

l.d.

l.d.

l.d.

l.d.

0.39

0.19

0.20

1.13

Al2O3

P2 O5

l.d.

0.13

l.d.

l.d.

l.d.

2.38

2.15

2.86

2.11

V2 O3

Total

99.09

99.82

99.82

99.68

99.79

91.13

88.71

88.11

86.44

[- denotes not measured; l.d. denotes less than detection limits]


Table 3. Analyses of alteration sequences of uraninites to uranyl silicates at Koongarra.
CAS 165

CAS 114/1

CAS 114/2

CAS 95/1

CAS 95/2

CAS 95/3

UO2

2.81

1.63

1.05

0.36

2.83

1.91

PbO

12.42

4.41

0.30

5.03

8.16

3.34

CaO

0.20

0.09

l.d.

0.04

0.15

0.12

SiO2

2.49

3.11

6.28

2.87

2.54

3.20

SFe(FeO) 5.50

8.71

81.46

0.47

11.09

58.16

MnO2

77.48

80.35

1.96

88.52

73.53

27.70

MgO

0.12

0.37

2.09

0.29

0.52

0.22

Al2O3

0.15

1.23

2.70

0.82

1.75

P2 O5

0.33

l.d.

l.d.

l.d.

V2 O3

l.d.

0.31

0.65

0.26

Total

101.50

99.90

93.14

100.59

100.29

96.66

[- denotes not measured; l.d. denotes less than detection limits]


Table 4. Analyses of iron and manganese oxides in fractures in the Koongarra primary ore.
(4) Uranium/Daughter Disequilibrium
There are two methods of measuring the grade of a uranium ore sample:by assaying for U directly using standard chemical or related techniques, and
by measuring the radioactivity given off by the ore sample, the quantity of such radioactivity being directly related, and
proportional, to the U content.
However, because the radioactivity measured is actually the gamma radiation given off by the daughter element bismuth214 (214Bi) far down the 238U decay chain, any addition or removal of daughter elements between 238U and214Bi will result in a

discrepancy between the above two measurements of the U content of the ore sample. To assess this possibility the two
measurements are compared:Three possibilities arise:Ratio = 1. The ore sample is said to be in equilibrium since the
two measurements agree, implying that the U and its daughter
elements are in equilibrium; neither have apparently migrated.
Ratio > 1. The ore sample is said to be in disequilibrium, and since the U content is greater than the daughter element
content either U has been added to the sample or daughter elements removed.
Ratio < 1. Again the ore sample is aid to be in disequilibrium, but now the U content is less than the daughter element
content implying either U removal or daughter element addition to the sample.
No.

Group Description

No. of Samples

Average U3O8(%)

Average Ratio

sa

Weathered zone

13

0.275

0.914

0.160

Host wall rocks

19

0.025

0.792

0.151

Massive ore

11

8.074

0.959

0.069

Intermediate
orebodies

0.171

0.971

0.132

1.608

0.925

0.102

Mean =

0.884

0.127

No.
Orebody

No.
Orebody
5

between

and

2
Massive ore

Total number of samples


a

No.

54

Standard deviations of average ratio


Table 5. Summary of disequilibrium patterns in the Koongarra orebodies.
Measurements on ore samples from Koongarra indicate that the ore is in overall disequilibrium (Table 5 and Figure
19).14 High resolution gamma-ray spectroscopy was then used to determine which daughter elements of 238U have been
mobilised.15 These investigations showed that even
though the high grade uraninite (massive) ore is near
equilibrium, radium-226 (226Ra) and radon-222
(222Rn), and the immediate host rocks being relatively
enriched in U, having been precipitated from the
circulating groundwaters that had dissolved it from
the orebody. Figure 20 schematically illustrates these
movements of isotopes caused by the present day
circulation of groundwaters.
Figure 19. Frequency histogram of disequilibrium
ratios measured on Koongarra ore and host rock
samples.
Figure 20. Uranium (U) and (Ra) migration and
precipitation
(ppt)
caused
by
present-day
groundwater circulation and chemistry.
(5) Groundwater and Soil Geochemistry
Because of the tropical, monsoonal climate, the
ground waters in the Koongarra area are fast moving, annually recharged and low in salinity, the water table rising and
falling by as much as 10 m between the wet and the dry
seasons. However, U is dissolved by the ground waters from
the mineralised aquifer rocks, the level of dissolved U
depending on the prevailing pH, Eh, salinity and degree of
adsorption. A survey of the chemistry of the ground waters in
open drill holes in and near the Koongarra orebodies revealed
that a hydrogeochemical halo exists in and around the ore
zones reflecting the alteration chemistry of the host rocks and
ore, with U levels up to 4100 .16 Such measurements
confirm the other observations already cited that indicate U is
being dissolved from the ore minerals by present day
circulating ground waters, dispersed and partly redeposited.
Furthermore, the ground waters are also dispersing U- Th
decay products such as helium (He) from the ore zone, with
measured levels up to 14.2 ml/l.17
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the soils overlying the ore
zones and the immediate areas of host rocks carry anomalous
U concentrations compared to background levels. 18 That the
ground waters have been responsible for dispersing U ( and
Pb) into the surrounding soils is also clearly demonstrated by
analyses down through the soil profile. Furthermore, Dickson et
al.19,20 found the Pb isotopic signature of the U ore in the soils

above the No.2 orebody, which is concealed by about 40 m of barren overburden, and in the soils to the south of the No.1
orebody within the hydrogeochemical halo.
Concentration (Wt%)

Atomic Ratios

Ages

Lead Isotope Ratios

Sample
No.

%U

%Pb

%Th

J804/1

62.38

8.07

0.30

0.142

1.312

0.0673

861

862

864

21330

1450

7.10

J804/b

38.21

4.45

0.28

0.126

1.264

0.0727

774

841

1025

9875

731.9

34.84

J801

55.07

3.64

0.34

0.071

0.810

0.0826

447

610

1282

16870

1408

54.20

J807

44.08

5.35

0.33

0.130

1.259

0.0703

796

838

954

12920

921.9

35.49

J809

52.61

5.45

0.39

0.114

1.061

0.0679

699

744

882

105800

7200

62.64

16.11

15.61

36.72

t206 m.y. t207 m.y.

Common lead correction


Mt Isa lead

Table 6. U-Th-Pb concentrations and isotopic compositions of Koongarra uraninites.


Table 7. Isotopic compositions of Koongarra galenas.
Dating of the Primary Ore
Sample No.
Hills and Richards21,22 isotipically analysed individual grains of uraninite and
galena that had been hand-picked from drill core (see Table 6 and 7). Only one of
J801
10290 1016
55.81
the five uraninite samples gave a near-concordant age of 862 Ma, that is, the
sample plotted almost on the standard concordia curve, and Hills and
J803
41240 3258
143.9
Richards22 interpreted this as recording fresh formation of Pb-free uraninite at 870
Ma (see Figure 21). The other four uraninite samples all lay well below concordia
J804
11530 883
8.539
and did not conform to any regular linear array. Hills and Richards were left with
two possible interpretations. On the one hand, preferential loss of the
J809
10540 1261
47.41
J820

4824

709.2

35.15

J821

3399

461.0

43.24

intermediate daughter products of 238U (that is,


escape of radon, a gas) would cause vertical
displacement of points below an episodic-loss line,
but this would only produce a significant Pb isotopic
effect if the loss had persisted for a very long
proportion of the life of the uraninite (which is
incidentally not only feasible but likely). Alternatively,
they suggested that contamination by small amounts
of an older (pre-900 Ma) Pb could cause such a
pattern as on their concordia plot, to which they
added mixing lines that they postulated arose from
the restoration to each uraninite sample of the
galena which separated from it (see Figure 21
again).
Figure
21. Conventional 206Pb/238U
concordia
diagram of uraninites from Koongarra. The insert
shows the hypothetical directional shift in uraninite
data points supposedly explained by contamination from associated galena.
This of course assumes that the Pb in the galenas was also derived predominantly from U decay. They plotted their Pb
ratios in all their uraninite samples on a standard 207Pb/206Pb diagram, and contended that the pattern of data points did not
conform to a simple age interpretation (see Figure 22). Instead, they contended that the scatter of points could be contained
between two lines radiating from the diagrams origin, lines that essentially represented isochrons for uraninites and galenas
from the Ranger and Nabarlek uranium deposits, similar orebodies in the same geological region. From the positions of the
Koongarra uraninites and galenas on these diagrams they claimed that the galenas contained left-over radiogenic Pb from
earlier uraninites as old as 1700-1800
Ma (the age of the Ranger uranium
mineralisation), these earlier uraninites
being obliterated by the U having
remobilised at 870 Ma, the age of the
lone Pb-free uraninite sample.
Figure
22. Conventional 207Pb/204Pb
vs. 206Pb/204Pb plots of galenas and
uraninites from Koongarra. Limiting
fields
of
anomalous-lead
lines
corresponding to ages of 1800 Ma
and 860 Ma.
In a separate study Carr and
Dean23 isotopically
analysed
unweathered whole- rock samples from
the Koongarra primary ore zone (see
Table 8). These were samples of drill
core that had been crushed. Their

isotopic data on four samples were plotted on a U-Pb isochron diagram and indicated a non-systematic relationship between
the 238U parent and the 206Pb daughter. In other words, the quantities of 206Pb could not simply be accounted for by
radioactive decay of 238U, implying open system behaviour. They also plotted their four results on a standard 207Pb/206Pb
isochron diagram (see Figure 23) and found that these samples fell on a poorly defined linear array whose apparent age
they did not quantify.

Figure 23. Conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb plot of the weathered and unweathered whole-rock samples from
Koongarra. The weathered and unweathered samples fall on separate isochrons.
Sample

Pb (ppm)

U (ppm)

80

590.0

Primary Ore
1

0.0233

0.0752

2438.350

183.370

56.708

0.0682

0.0908

1162.990

105.594

79.351

0.0110

0.0692

6845.720

473.718

75.415

112

154.0

0.0346

0.0649

5719.990

371.474

198.191

19

17.0

168.0

Weathered Zone Ore


5

0.1785

0.1192

387.664

46.210

69.205

413.0

0.3804

0.2028

124.773

25.310

47.465

861.0

0.5029

0.2790

72.814

20.315

36.616

50

0.9277

0.4118

44.155

18.184

40.964

10

0.1608

0.1403

248.526

34.859

39.963

30

10

0.1650

0.1420

241.053

34.225

39.772

30

11

1.0477

0.3534

55.190

19.502

57.822

12

0.1213

0.1252

363.622

45.537

44.119

58

13

0.1233

0.1250

357.688

44.709

44.106

10

Table 8. Results of Pb isotopic, U concentration and Pb concentration analyses for Koongarra whole-rock samples.
Dating of Weathered Rocks and Soils
Carr and Dean23 also isotopically analysed a further nine whole-rock
samples from the weathered schist zone at Koongarra (see Table 8).
Some of these samples were again crushed drill core, but the
majority were crushed percussion drill chips. When their isotopic
data were plotted on a U-Pb isochron diagram, six of the nine
samples plotted close to the reference 1000 Ma isochron, while the
other three were widely scattered (see Figure 24). However, on
the207Pb/206Pb diagram all nine weathered rock samples plotted on a
linear array which gave an apparent isochron age of 1270
(see Figures 23 and 25).

50Ma

Figure 24. A U-Pb (238U/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb) isochron diagram with


the weathered whole-rock samples plotted on it. Most fall on the
1000 Ma reference isochron while the 10 Ma reference iisochron is
also drawn in as a guide to the two outliers.

Figure 25. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb isochron


diagram showing all the weathered whole-rock samples plotted as a
linear array which gives an apparent isochron age of 1270
50Ma. (This diagram is an expansion of the lower left hand corner of
Figure 23.)
In unrelated investigations, Dickson et al.19,20 collected soil samples
from above the mineralisation at Koongarra and from surrounding
areas, and these were analysed for Pb isotopes to see if there was
any Pb isotopic dispersion halo around the mineralisation sufficiently
large enough to warrant the use of Pb isotopic analyses of soils as
an exploration technique to find new uranium orebodies. The
technique did in fact work, Pb isotopic traces of the deeply buried
No.2 orebody mineralisation being found in the soils above, as
mentioned earlier. This mineralisation, 40 m below the surface, is
blind to other detection techniques.Dickson et al.20 found that all 113
soil samples from their two studies were highly correlated (r =
0.99986) on a standard 207Pb/206Pb diagram, yielding an apparent
(false) isochron representing an age of 1445
20 Ma for the
samples (see Figure 26). However, most of the soil samples consisted of detritus eroded from the Middle Proterozoic
Kombolgie sandstone, so because the samples from near the mineralisation gave a radiogenic Pb signature Dickson et al.
interpreted the false isochron as being due to mixing of radiogenic Pb from the uranium mineralisation with the common
Pb from the sandstone.
Figure 26. Plot of 207Pb/206Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb for all 113 soil samples from the Koongarra area analysed by Dickson et al.,
indicating the high correlation of r = 0.99986 between the two variables with a fitted regression line yielding an
apparent isochron age of 1445
20 Ma. The insert shows the distribution of samples about a threshold dividing
radiogenic Pb and country rock Pb along this proposed mixing line.
Discussion
Primary Ore Samples
Snelling24 has already highlighted a telling omission by Hills
and Richards.22 Having included all the Pb isotopic ratios they
had obtained on their five uraninite samples, they tabulated
also the derived ages, except for those obtainable from 208Pb
(see Table 6 again). Since their data table lists the necessary
ingredients for 208Pb age calculations - %Th,208Pb proportion,
and 208Pb/207Pb and 208Pb/204Pb ratios - their omission of
the 208Pb ages is both conspicuous and significant. These
Th-derived dates should normally be regarded as the most
reliable, since Th is less mobile in geochemical environments
and therefore open system behaviour is less likely than for U.
The 204Pb content of the uraninite is regarded as common or
original Pb since it is not derived from any parent element via
radioactive decay. Because this so-called common Pb is
also believed to carry a significant quantity of the 206Pb, 207Pb
and 208Pb isotopes, a common Pb correction has to be
applied to the raw data before calculation of the U- Th-Pb
ages. This, of course, is an admission that not all the
quantities of these Pb isotopes are derived by radioactive
decay, some being with the U and Th in the beginning. The
standard used to correct the data in Table 6 was the Mt Isa Pb
standard with an isotopic composition:1.44% 204Pb

23.20% 206Pb

22.48% 207Pb

52.88% 208Pb

It should be noted in passing also that the choice of this standard is based on one of several theories of element
nucleogenesis and Pb isotopic evolution,25,26 making the whole age calculation procedure rather subjective, based on
further assumptions.When this common Pb correction is applied to the data in Table 6, 27 most of the 208Pb has resulted
from common Pb contamination. In fact, in samples J804/1, J804/b and J807 all the 208Pb is due to contamination and
none to 232Th decay, thus resulting in 208Pb ages of 0 Ma (within the experimental/analytical errors) for these samples. The
remaining two samples yield 208Pb ages27 of 275 Ma (J801) and 61 Ma (J809), both considerably less than all other Pb
ages. Since they are as valid as any of the other resultant ages calculated, these 232Th/208Pb ages should have been at
least reported (one suspects they were left out of the tabulated results because of the uncomfortable implications). After all,
the 232Th/208Pb age of 0 Ma is the only Pb isotopic date from that study supported directly by a majority of samples (three
out of the five), and Th-derived , dates should be reliable as the 232Th decay chain is a standard isotopic clock, but a 0 Ma
age makes little more sense than their 870 Ma age from the U- Pb data. In any case, Hills and Richards age of 17001800 Ma for the first generation of U mineralisation at Koongarra neither fits the geological criteria for an expected 15501600 Ma age, nor does their 870 Ma date correlate with any geological event capable of remobilising U and Pb to
produce the presumed second generation of U mineralisation.Using the procedure of Ludwig, 28 standard 207Pb/206Pb
diagrams were prepared for the uraninite, galena and whole-rock data sets, and combinations thereof, to check the
regression statistics and possible derived isochrons using the standard York 29 method. In each case the mean square of
weighted deviates (MSWD), which tests the goodness of fit of data to a line, is large to extremely large, which reflects in
the derived isochron ages of 841140 Ma (uraninites), 1008

420 Ma (galenas), 668

330 Ma (whole-rocks), 818

150

Ma (uraninites plus galenas) and 863


130 Ma (all three data sets combined), all ages being within the 95% confidence
limits (see Figures 27-31). It is perhaps fortuitously significant that the combination of all three data sets yields an isochron

age of 863
130 Ma, almost identical to Hills and Richards near-concordant age of 862 Ma, although this was using a
line-fitting routine of Ludwig28 that assigns equal weights and zero error-correlations to each data point to avoid the mistake
of weighting the points according to analytical errors when it is clear that some other cause of scatter is involved, which is
clearly the case here. The normal York 29 algorithm assumes that the only cause for scatter from a straight line are the
assigned errors, and for the combined data set here the amount of scatter calculated thereby yields an astronomical MSWD
of 669000 and a bad line of fit that yields an isochron age of
1632
410 Ma (see Figure 32). This result may make more geological sense, but the regression statistics are such that
derivation of any age information from these data is totally unjustified, even though it can be rightfully argued that these
samples form a cogenetic set (they are all samples of U ore or its components from the same primary ore zone at
Koongarra).

Figure 27. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with all Koongarra uraninites plotted on it using Ludwigs
ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 2 age of 841

140 Ma.

Figure 28. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with all Koongarra galenas plotted on it using Ludwigs
ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 2 age of 1008

420 Ma.

Figure 29. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with all the unweathered whole-rock samples from Koongarra
plotted on it using Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 1 age of 668

330 Ma.

Figure 30. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with both Koongarra uraninites and galenas plotted on it using
Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 2 age of 818

150 Ma.

Figure 31. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with all Koongarra uraninites, galenas and unweathered
whole-rock samples plotted on it using Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 2 age
of 863

130 Ma.

Figure 32. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with all Koongarra uraninites, galenas and unweathered
whole-rock samples plotted on it using Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 1 age
of 1632
410 Ma.
It is not uncommon to find that ages derived from standard 207Pb/206Pb plots are erroneous, even though the data fit welldefined linear arrays (isochrons). Ludwig et al.30 found that this was due to migration of both Pb and radioactive daughters
of 238U yielding a 207Pb/206Pb isochron giving superficially attractive results which would nonetheless be seriously
misleading because the derived age (in their example) was more than six times higher than the U-Pb isochron age.
Similarly, Cunningham et al.31 obtained 207Pb/206Pb isochron ages up to 50 times higher than those derived from more
reliable U-Pb isochrons for whole-rock U ore samples, even though the apparent slight degree of scatter is almost entirely
a misleading artifact. Likewise, at Jabiluka, an almost identical style of uranium deposit in the identical geological setting
only about 60 km due north of Koongarra, Gulson and Mizon 32 had considerable difficulty obtaining Pb-Pb and U-Pb
isochron ages for the U mineralisation due to 238U daughter leakage and diffusion out of the U minerals and ore into the
surrounding host rocks and constituent minerals, that therefore had gained excess radium (Ra) and 206Pb. Ironically, at
Koongarra the U-Pb isochron using Ludwig 28 on Hills and Richards uraninite data yields an age of 857
149 Ma (with an
MSWD of 13400, tolerably large compared to that obtained with the Pb-Pb isochron) (see Figure 33), almost identical to the
fortuitous Pb-Pb isochron age obtained using Ludwigs modified algorithm on the combined three data sets (863
Ma), as well as Hills and Richards single near-concordant 862 Ma age.

130

Figure 33. A conventional 206Pb/238U vs. 207Pb/235U concordia diagram with all the Koongarra uraninites plotted on it using
Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron that intersects concordia at 857
149 Ma.
As has already been described, Snelling and Dickson 14 have demonstrated that there is significant uranium/daughter
disequilibrium in the primary ore and surrounding host rocks at Koongarra due to the redistribution of both U and its Ra
decay product, just as Gulson and Mizon found at Jabiluka. That Ra mobility at depth in the primary ore zone is currently
more significant than U migration has been confirmed by Dickson and Snelling, 15 which of course results ultimately in the
redistribution of 206Pb, the end-member of the whole 238U decay chain. Dickson et al.33 have demonstrated that Ra is
transported through the unweathered rocks in this area in the ground waters, while Davy et al.34 have determined the
emanation rate of radon (Rn) gas from the Koongarra No.1 orebody, an ever present hazard in uranium ore mining
operations. The Rn gas is known to migrate along fractures and rise through the ground over considerable distances to form
a halo in the air above, while Rn is also transported in ground waters. Thus it is to be expected that the pattern of oxidation
of uraninites and dispersion of U should reflect the present-day circulation of ground waters 7 and that present-day ground
waters should be carrying U and He.16,17 Such groundwater dispersion of U and mobility of Ra has, of course, resulted in U
and Pb dispersion into the surrounding soils,18 where the Pb isotopic signature of the U ore is clearly evident.19,20These
observations alone demonstrate the open system behaviour of the U- Th-Pb system that renders meaningless any age
information derived. However, both Hills12 and Snelling13 have recognised that U and Pb also have migrated several times
and on a considerable scale in the primary ore zone, with the latest redistribution having produced supergene uraninites,

often with colloform banding, found as fracture and cavity infillings (see Figure 16 again), and between quartz and gangue
grain boundaries. The unit cell dimensions of these uraninites, plus this textural evidence, supports the conclusion that these
uraninites have precipitated after dissolution of earlier formed uraninite and transportation in low-temperature ground
waters. With such wholesale repeated migrations of U also, all attempts at dating must be rendered useless, especially
when whole-rock samples, in which different generations of uraninites are lumped together, are used. Indeed, it must surely
be virtually impossible to be certain of the precise status and history of any particular piece of uraninite selected for dating.
Even though every conceivable precaution is taken when selecting grains for dating, how can we be sure that the U and
Pb isotopes and isotopic ratios measured represent the original, unaffected by the gross element movements for which
there is such abundant evidence? The uraninite grains or ore samples dated always contain radiogenic Pb both within
crystal lattices of minerals, and as microscopic inclusions or grains and veins of galena, but how can we be sure all the Pb
was generated by radioactive decay from U in situ? In any case, the uraninite grains and veins do not have uniform
compositions - either between or within grains - so that dating of sub-sections of any grain or vein would be expected to
yield widely divergent U-Pb and Pb-Pb ratios and therefore ages even within that single grain or vein. Thus it is logical to
conclude, as others have already,35-37that U- Th-Pb ratios may have little to do with the ages of many minerals, rocks and
ores.
Weathered Rocks and Soils
In contrast to the poor-fitting linear arrays produced from the Pb-Pb data of minerals and whole-rocks from the primary ore
zone, that all appear to give an apparent (false) isochron age grouped around 857-863 Ma, both Carr and Dean 23 and
Dickson et al.20 found that weathered schist whole-rock and soil samples produced good fitting linear arrays that would
normally represent isochrons that yield ages of 1270 Ma and 1445 Ma respectively (see Figures 25 and 26 again). The
weathered whole-rock samples all of course come from Koongarra itself, and consist of secondary ore samples from the
weathered schist zone, plus weathered schist samples that contain U dispersed down-slope by ground waters moving
through the weathered rock. Because these whole-rock samples come from a volume of rock through which U is known to
be migrating, leading to redistribution not only of U but of its decay products, it is therefore very surprising to find that these
whole-rock samples define a good enough linear array to yield an isochron. Even the observed scatter calculated using
Ludwig28 is much less than that associated with fitting an isochron to the 207Pb-206Pb data from the primary ore zone
samples, which is again surprising given U migration in the weathered zone, the data from which one would expect to show
considerable scatter and thus no age consensus. Furthermore, it is baffling as to why the isochron-derived age (1270
Ma) of the weathered secondary ore zone should be so much older than the isochron-derived age (857-863 Ma) of the
primary ore, which of course is ultimately the source through weathering and groundwater transport of the U, decay products
and the stable Pb isotopes that are in the secondary and dispersed ore. Perhaps the only explanation is that the isochron
represents the mixing of radiogenic Pb from the mineralisation with the common or background Pb in the surrounding
schists, which are even in a relative sense older than the U mineralisation.The idea of such an isochron being a mixing line
was suggested by Dickson et al.20 They were, however, dealing with the Pb isotopic data obtained from soil samples
collected from depths of only about 30-40 cm, the majority of which represented sandy soils consisting of detritus eroded
from the Kombolgie sandstone. For this mixing explanation to be feasible there should be some other evidence of
mobilisation of Pb in the area. Dickson et al. found that not only were there high 206Pb/204Pb ratios in three of their soil
samples from the near-surface (0-1 m) zone south of the No.1 orebody in the hydrogeochemical halo, but there was a lack
of any other U-series daughter products in the same samples. This near-surface zone is inundated for approximately six
months of the year as a result of the high monsoonal rainfall in this tropical area. Towards the end of the ensuing six-month
dry season the water table has been known to drop in some cases more than ten metres from its wet season high. This
means that the top of the weathered schist zone is regularly fluctuating between wet and dry conditions, so that any trace
elements such as Pb leached from the weathered ore and transported by ground water in the weathered schist zone would
also be dispersed vertically up into the thin surficial sand cover on top of the weathered schist - the sandy soils that were
sampled by Dickson et al.19,20 Snelling18 found that Pb was a significant pathfinder element for uranium ore in the Koongarra
environment, anomalous Pb being present in the surficial sand cover above the zone of weathered primary ore, and that
there was even hydrodynamic dispersal of Pb at a depth of 0.5-1.5 m. Dickson et al.19 found a similarity between the isotopic
ratios for Pb extracted from their soil samples by either a mild HCI-hydroxylamine (pH 1) or a strong 7M HCI- 7M
HNO3 leach, which indicates that Pb is loosely attached to sand grain surfaces in the samples rather than tightly bound in
silicate or resistate mineral lattices. This in turn suggests Pb is adsorbed from ground waters, meaning that radiogenic Pb is
being added to the common or background Pb in the sand by both vertical and lateral groundwater dispersion.However,
not all of Dickson et al.s soil samples came from the area immediate to the Koongarra orebodies, nor were they all samples
of Kombolgie sandstone detritus. That this mixing line explanation for the apparent isochron is clearly demonstrated for
these samples from the immediate Koongarra area is not in question, although it is somewhat surprising that these soil
samples should give an apparent isochron age (1445 Ma) somewhat older than that obtained from the weathered schist
samples beneath (1270 Ma). Indeed, the common or background Pb in the respective samples should reflect an older
apparent age in the schists compared to the sandstone, due to their relative ages based on the geological relationship
between them. (Remember, the schists are supposed to be the product of regional metamorphism at 1800-1870 Ma, while
the Kombolgie sandstone is regarded as having been deposited around 1600- 1680 Ma.) However, the apparent ages are
the other way around, the sandy soils from the Kombolgie sandstone detritus yielding an older apparent age (1445 Ma)
compared to that yielded by the weathered schists (1270 Ma). Perhaps this difference is a reflection of the extent of mixing
in each type of sample at their respective levels in the weathering profile. Nevertheless, what is astounding is that
Dickson et al.20 found that even though several of their soil samples consisted of weathered schist or basement granite
(containing accessory zircon) up to 17km from the known U mineralisation, they still plotted on the same apparent
isochron. Indeed, the fit is comparatively good (see Figure 34), as indicated by the MSWD of only 964 using Ludwig, 28 yet
much of this observed scatter can be attributed to two samples out of the 113, one of which was subsequently found to be
probably contaminated by cuttings from an adjacent drill hole.19 If that sample is removed from the regression analysis the
MSWD drops to 505, indicating that almost half of the observed scatter is due to that one data point alone. If the data point
that is the next worst for fitting to the apparent isochron is removed, then the MSWD drops by a further 315 to a mere 190.
Yet in both cases the apparent isochron or mixing line still has lying on or close to it the samples from up to 17 km away
from the known U mineralisation and the samples that are not Kombolgie sandstone detritus. The final isochron fitted to
the remaining 111 samples still yields an age of 1420

18 Ma (see Figure 34 again).

Figure 34. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb


diagram with all Koongarra area soil samples plotted on it
using Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent
isochron with a model 1 age of 1428

33 Ma for all 113

samples and 1420


18 Ma for 111 samples (2 outliers
removed).
While Carr and Deans nine weathered schist whole- rock
samples are not strictly cogenetic with Dickson et al.s 113
soil samples, the two sample sets are obviously related
because the source of the radiogenic Pb in the majority of
the soil samples from the immediate Koongarra area is the
same as that in the weathered schists. Not surprisingly,
when the regression analysis was performed on Carr and
Deans nine weathered schist whole-rock samples using
Ludwig,28the MSWD for the observed scatter was 24100,
indicating a poor fit to an isochron which yielded an age
of 1287
120 Ma (see Figure 35). Yet when these nine
samples were added to the 113 soil samples the MSWD
dropped substantially to 1210, and not surprisingly the fitted isochron yielded an age of 1346
27 Ma, an isochron age
intermediate between those of the two data sets being combined (see Figure 36). However, when the two soil samples
responsible for the majority of the scatter in that data set were removed the MSWD dropped to 430 and yielded an isochron
age of 1336

17 Ma (see Figure 36 again).

Figure 35. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with the weathered whole-rock samples from Koongarra
plotted on it using Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 1 age of 1287

120 Ma.

Figure 36. A conventional 207Pb/204Pb vs. 206Pb/204Pb diagram with all Koongarra area weathered whole-rock and soil
samples plotted on it using Ludwigs ISOPLOT program and defining an apparent isochron with a model 1 age of 1346
27 Ma for all 122 samples and 1336
17 Ma for 120 samples (2 outliers removed).
General Comments
As with all the other apparent isochron ages, these results from the weathered rocks and soils have no apparent geological
meaning, because there is no geological event to which these ages might correlate. Indeed, even in the evolutionary time-

frame the weathering of the Koongarra U mineralisation is extremely recent, and in any case, these ages derived from PbPb isochrons from the weathered rock and soil samples are much older than the supposedly more reliable U-Pb
isochron age of the Koongarra primary ore. But since that latter result has no apparent geological meaning, because it also
cannot be correlated with any known geological event, nothing then is certain at all from any of these U-Th-Pb isotopic
studies of the Koongarra ores, rocks and surrounding soils. Indeed, it is just as certain that the primary ore is 0 Ma, based
on three 232Th/208Pb single sample ages, as is the claim that one near-concordant result means that there was formation of
Pb-free uraninite at 870 Ma. After all, this postulated formation of Pb-free uraninite is supposed to have occurred in an
environment where there was Pb left over from an earlier 1700-1800 Ma original U mineralisation for which we no longer
have any evidence, textural or otherwise, apart from a rather tenuous interpretation of Pb isotopic evidence that has
otherwise shown itself to be devoid of any capability of providing any age information.
All these results raise serious fundamental questions about the claimed validity of the U-Th-Pb dating method. It may seem
reasonable to regard an apparent isochron as a mixing line within the restricted area close to the known source of
radiogenic Pb, which can be shown by independent evidence to be migrating into rocks and soils that contain common or
background Pb in the immediate environs. However, it strains all credulity to suggest that a false isochron through a data
set derived from samples representing a variety of rock types, of significantly different evolutionary ages, over an area of
up to 17 km lateral extent from the known radiogenic Pb source, can still represent mixing! One can only conclude that all
assumptions used to derive the estimates of common or background Pb, including models for the supposed evolution of
the stable Pb isotopes through earth history, from their presumed commencement on the protoearth with its claimed original
Pb isotope content some 4.6 billion or so years ago, cannot be valid. Equally, we cannot be sure what the U-Th-Pb systems
isotopic ratios really mean, because the basic assumptions that are foundational to the interpretation of these isotopic ratios
are fatally flawed. Not only has open system behaviour of these isotopes been demonstrated as the norm, but even where
there is an apparent isochron with an excellent goodness of fit the derived age is invariably geologically
meaningless.Thus creationists need not be hindered in building their Creation-Flood young-earth model for the geological
record by the many claims in the open geological literature that U-Th-Pb radiometric dating has proved the presumed
great antiquity of the earth, and the strata and fossils of the so-called geological column. Accordingly, all the apparent
isochron and other ages that have been referred to here have been quoted as millions of years (Ma) purely in order to
reveal the shortcomings of the U-Th-Pb dating method. Indeed, even the use of conventional geological era terms such as
Archaean and Lower Proterozoic has been for convenient reference to the rock units under discussion, there being no
absolute age significance attached to these terms here - only a relative position within the overall rock record. There is
clearly a real sequence of rock units that comprise the total geological record, from the so-called Archaean to the Recent,
the formation of which needs to be understood and coherently modelled within the framework of a recent Creation and
global Flood. Much progress towards this goal has been, and is being, made within the relatively small creationist geological
community. Thus the mounting evidence that the claimed absolute dating methods, such as U- Th-Pb radiometrics, are
unreliable at best, and in reality produce many results that are impressive but geologically meaningless, can only assist in
this quest.
Conclusions
The concerns raised by Zheng1 regarding U-Pb isochrons are warranted. At Koongarra a 207Pb/206Pb isochron produced
from 11 hand-picked uraninite and galena grains, plus four whole-rock samples, yields an age of 863 Ma, the same as a
near-concordant age of 862 Ma from one of the uraninite grains. Nine weathered whole-rock samples yield an isochron
age of 1270 Ma, while 113 soil samples produce an excellent isochron with an age of 1445 Ma. All of these ages are
geologically meaningless. While the apparent isochron produced by the soil samples may be identified as a mixing line,
produced by the mixing of radiogenic Pb with common or background Pb in the surrounding rocks and soils, even this
explanation strains credulity because the samples come from up to 17 km away from known U mineralisation, and a few of
the soil samples represent different rock types. Not only then has open system behaviour of these isotopes been
demonstrated, as confirmed by the independent evidence of ore textures, mineral chemistry, supergene alteration,
uranium/daughter disequilibrium, and groundwater and soil geochemistry, but apparent isochrons and their derived ages
are invariably geologically meaningless. Thus none of the assumptions used to interpret the U- Th-Pb isotopic system to
yield ages can be valid. If these assumptions were valid, then the 232Th/208Pb age of 0 Ma for three of the five uraninite
samples should be taken seriously. Creationists should therefore not be intimidated by claims that U-Th-Pb radiometric
dating has proved the presumed great antiquity of the earth, and the strata and fossils of the so-called geological column.
Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Rubidium-87 ( 87Rb)
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on September 3, 2014
Abstract
In spite of numerous attempts over the last 60 years to determine the 87Rb half-life and decay constant, there is still no
consensus on the absolute values. Even the more accurate determinations of the last 30 years have resulted in
discrepancies. Determinations based on comparisons of ages of earth minerals and rocks give two different values of
the 87Rb half-life and decay constant to the values using determinations based on comparison of ages of meteorites and
lunar rocks. Yet the most recent direct counting and in-growth experimental determinations only agree with the most recent
determinations based on comparison of the Rb-Sr ages of earth minerals and rocks with their U-Pb gold standard ages.
This has resulted in suggested values of the 87Rb half-life and decay constant that are different from the two values of each
previously championed in the literature. A similar discrepancy in determinations of the 176Lu half-life and decay constant has
been recognized in the literature, as well as variations in the 238U/235U ratio so critical to the U-Pb gold standard against
which the Rb-Sr ages have been calibrated. Since the 87Rb decay rate has thus not been accurately determined, the Rb-Sr
dating method is certainly not absolute and therefore cannot be used to discredit the young-earth creationist timescale.
However, further study is warranted to explore any potential significance in this discrepancy in half-lives and decay
constants between earth materials, and meteorites and lunar rocks.
Keywords: radioisotope dating, decay constant, half-life, rubidium-87,87Rb, decay, direct counting, in-growth experiments,
geological comparisons, discrepancies, meteorites, lunar rocks, earth minerals and rocks, 176Lu, U-Pb gold
standard, 238U/235U.
Introduction
Radioisotope dating of rocks and meteorites is perhaps the most potent claimed proof for the old age of the earth and the
solar system. The absolute ages provided by the radioisotope dating methods provide an apparent aura of certainty to the
claimed millions and billions of years for formation of the earths rocks. Both the scientific community and the general public
around the world (except perhaps in the USA) thus remain convinced of the earths claimed great antiquity.The 19972005
RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project successfully made progress in documenting some of the pitfalls in
the radioisotope dating methods, and especially in demonstrating that radioisotope decay rates may not have always been

constant at todays measured rates (Vardiman, Snelling, and Chaffin 2000, 2005). Yet much research effort remains to be
done to make further inroads into not only uncovering the flaws intrinsic to these long-age dating methods, but towards a
robust understanding of radioisotopes and their decay during the earths history within a creationist framework.One crucial
area the RATE project did not touch on was the issue of how reliable have been the determinations of the radioisotope
decay rates, which are so crucial for calibrating these dating clocks. Accurate radioisotope age determinations depend on
accurate determinations of the decay constants or half-lives of the respective parent isotopes. The reliability of the other two
assumptions these absolute dating methods rely on, that is, the starting conditions and no contamination of closed systems,
are unprovable. Yet these can be circumvented somewhat via the isochron technique, because it is independent of the
starting conditions and is sensitive to revealing any contamination. Data points that do not fit on the isochron are simply
ignored because their values are regarded as due to contamination. That this is common practice is illustrated with
numerous examples from the literature by Faure and Mensing (2005) and Dickin (2005). On the other hand, it could be
argued that this discarding of data points which do not fit the isochron is somewhat arbitrary and therefore is not good
science, because it is merely assumed their aberrant values are due to contamination rather than that being proven to be
so.The aim of this contribution is to begin to document the methodology behind and history of determining the decay
constants and half-lives of the parent radioisotopes used as the basis for the long-age dating methods. We need to explore
just how accurate these determinations are, whether there really is consensus on standard values for the half-lives and
decay constants, and just how independent and objective the standard values are from one another between the different
methods. We begin here with rubidium-87 (87Rb), which is the basis for the Rb-Sr dating method.
Rubidium-87 Decay
The natural radioactivity of rubidium (Rb) was demonstrated in 1906, but it took more than thirty years for 87Rb to be
identified as a naturally-occurring radioactive isotope (radioisotope) (Hahn, Strassman, and Walling 1937; Mattauch 1937).
The feasibility of dating Rb-bearing minerals by the -decay of 87Rb to 87Sr was first proposed by Hahn and Walling (1938),
but the first determination by this method did not follow until a few years later (Hahn et al. 1943). However, the Rb-Sr
method of radioisotope dating did not come into wide use until the 1950s, when mass spectrometers became available for
routine isotopic analyses of solids (Nier 1940). At the same time the technology was developed to measure the
concentrations of Rb and Sr by isotope dilution, combined with the separation of these elements by cation exchange
chromatography. Faure and Powell (1972), Faure and Mensing (2005), and Dickin (2005) provide these and more details
about the history of the development of the Rb-Sr dating method, and its theoretical basis and applicability.
Rubidium is a group-1 alkali metal. On the periodic table it is listed in the group IA column, which consists of Li, Na, K, Rb,
Cs, and Fr. The ionic radius of Rb+ is 1.48 , which is sufficiently similar to that of K+ (1.33) to allow it to substitute for K+ in
all K-bearing minerals. Rubidium is an element that does not form minerals in which it is a major constituent. Instead, Rb is a
dispersed element in trace amounts in other minerals. For example, it occurs in easily detectable amounts in common Kbearing minerals, such as the micas (muscovite, biotite, phlogopite and lepidolite), K-feldspars (orthoclase and microcline),
certain clay minerals, and the evaporite (precipitite) minerals sylvite and carnallite.Rubidium has two naturally-occurring
isotopes 85Rb and 87Rb, whose abundances are 72.17% and 27.83% respectively (Dickin 2005; Faure and Mensing 2005).
Rubidium-87 is radioactive and decays to stable 87Sr:87
Rb 87Sr + + + Q
A negative -particle () and an anti-neutrino () are both emitted in this process. The decay energy (Q) is shared as
kinetic energy by these two particles. Fortunately this -decay of 87Rb is a single-step process. In effect, it can be regarded
as the transformation of a neutron within the 87Rb nucleus into a proton and an electron, the latter then being expelled as a
negative -particle. The relative simplicity of this decay step therefore makes measuring the decay rate of 87Rb relatively
straight forward. There are two parameters by which the decay rate is measured and expressed, namely, the decay constant
() and the half-life (t). The latter is the time it takes for half of a given number of the parent radionuclide atoms to decay.
The two quantities can be almost used interchangeably, because they are related by the equation:t = ln 2 = 0.693
Determination Methods
Three approaches have so far been followed to determine the -decay constant and half-life of the long-lived
radioactive 87Rb.
Direct counting
In this technique, the beta () activity of 87Rb is counted in a source material, and divided by the total number of radioactive
atoms in the known quantity of Rb, based on Avogadros number and the isotopic abundance of 87Rb. Among the difficulties
of this approach are the self-shielding of finite-thickness solid samples, the low specific activities, imprecise knowledge of
the isotopic composition of the parent Rb, the detection of very low-energy decays, and problems with detector efficiencies
and geometry factors (Begemann et al. 2001).The low decay energy for this 87Rb -decay transformation (0.275MeV) has
always caused problems in the accurate determination of the 87Rb decay constant (Dickin 2005; Faure and Mensing 2005).
Because the decay energy is divided between the -particles and the anti-neutrinos, the -particles have a smooth
distribution of kinetic energy from the total energy down to zero. When attempting to determine the decay constant by direct
counting the low-energy -particles cause great problems because they may be absorbed by surrounding Rb atoms before
they ever reach the detector. For example, in a thick (>1m) solid Rb sample, attenuation is so severe that a false
frequency maximum is generated at about 10keV.One way this attenuation problem has been avoided is to use a photomultiplier with a liquid scintillation solution doped with Rb. The -particles will be absorbed by molecules of the scintillator
(emitting flashes of light) before they can be absorbed by other Rb atoms. The major problem with this method is that a lowenergy cut-off at about 10keV must be applied to avoid the high background noise associated with liquid scintillation (Dickin
2005). The consequent extrapolation of count-rate curves down to zero energy leads to a large uncertainty in the result.
Hence this method has given values for the 87Rb half-life from 47.01.0Byr (Flynn and Glendenin 1959) to 52.11.5Byr
(Brinkman, Aten, and Veenboer 1965).Another approach to direct counting is to make measurements with progressively
thinner solid Rb sources using a proportional counter. The results are then extrapolated to a theoretical source of zero
thickness to remove the effect of self-absorption. The proportional counter has a much lower noise level, so the energy cutoff can be set as low as 0.185keV. Rb films with thicknesses down to 1m were measured by Neumann and Huster (1974),
and extrapolated to zero thickness by Neumann and Huster (1976) to derive a 87Rb half-life of 48.80.8Byr (equivalent to a
decay constant of 1.4210-11yr-1).Judged from the fact that many of the direct counting experiments have yielded results
that are not compatible with one another within the stated uncertainties (see below), it would appear that not all the
measurement uncertainties are accounted for, and therefore the stated uncertainties are unrealistically small. Many of such
experiments are plagued by unrecognized systematic errors (Begemann et al. 2001). As the nature of these errors is
obscure, it is not straightforward to decide which of the, often mutually exclusive, results of such direct counting experiments
is closest to the true value. Furthermore, the presence of unknown systematic biases makes any averaging dangerous. It is
possible that reliable results of careful workers, listing realistic uncertainties, will not be given the weights they deservethis

aside from the question of whether it makes sense to average numbers that by far do not agree within the stated
uncertainties.
In-Growth Experiments
An alternative approach to determining the 87Rb decay constant and half-life is to measure the amount of 87Sr produced by
the decay of a known quantity of 87Rb in the laboratory over a known period of time. This method was first attempted by
McMullen, Fritze, and Tomlinson (1966) on an Rb sample that was purified in 1956, and was repeated on the same sample
batch by Davis et al. (1977). Unfortunately, McMullen, Fritze, and Tomlinson (1996) omitted to measure the small but
significant level of residual 87Sr present in their Rb sample before they put it away on the shelf. Hence, the accuracy of their
determination was compromised. However, this problem contributed less than 1% uncertainty to the later determination of
Davis et al. (1977). Their proposed value for the 87Rb half-life of 48.90.4Byr, equivalent to a decay constant of 1.4210-11
yr-1, would thus seem to support the value of Neumann and Huster (1976) obtained by direct counting.This technique thus
relies on measuring the -decay product 87Sr of a well-known amount of a radioactive 87Rb accumulated over a well-defined
period of time. Where feasible, this is the most straightforward technique (Begemann et al. 2001). In-growth measurement
overcomes the problems encountered with direct counting of large fractions of low-energy 87Rb-emitted -particles. It also
comprises the direct 87Sr product of any radiation-less decays (which otherwise cannot be measured at all).
Among the drawbacks of this approach is that the method is obviously not instantaneous. The experiment must be started
long before the first results can be obtained because long periods of time (typically decades) are required for sufficiently
large amounts of the decay products to accumulate. In-growth experiments further require an accurate determination of the
ratio of the two chemical elements (parent/daughter, 87Rb/87Sr) as well as an accurate determination of the isotopic
composition of parent and daughter elements Rb and Sr at the start of the accumulation (Begemann et al. 2001).
Geological comparisons of methods
The third approach to the determination of the 87Rb decay constant (and half-life) has been to date geological samples
whose ages have also been measured by other methods with presumably more reliable decay constants (Dickin 2005;
Faure and Mensing 2005). This method has the disadvantage that it involves geological uncertainties, such as whether all
isotopic systems closed at the same time and remained closed. However, it is claimed to still provide a useful check on the
direct laboratory determinations. In this respect it is worth noting that Pinson et al. (1963) proposed a 87Rb half-life of 48.8
Byr on the basis of Rb-Sr dating of stony meteorites (chondrites) that had also been U-Pb dated, well before Neumann and
Huster (1974, 1976) arrived at the essentially the same 87Rb half-life value via direct counting.
This approach entails multi-chronometric dating of a rock and cross-calibration of different radioisotopic age systems by
adjusting the decay constant of one system so as to force agreement with the age obtained via another dating system
(Begemann et al. 2001). In essence, because the half-life of 238U is the most accurately known of all relevant radionuclides,
this usually amounts to expressing ages in units of the half-life of 238U.
Results of the Rubidium-87 Decay Determinations
During the last 60 years numerous determinations of the 87Rb decay constant and half-life have been made using these
three methods. The results are listed with details in Table 1. The year of the determination versus the value of the decay
constant is plotted in Fig. 1, and the year of the determination versus the value of the half-life is plotted in Fig. 2. In each
diagram the data points plotted have been color-coded the same to differentiate the values as determined by the three
approaches that have been useddirect counting, in-growth experiments, and geological comparisons with other
radioisotope dating methods.
Table 1. Determinations of the 87Rb decay rate expressed in terms of the half-life and decay constant using direct counting,
in-growth experiments and comparisons of radioisotope ages.
Determination of the 87Rb Decay Rate
Decay
Constant
(x10-11yr -1)

Date

Half-Life
(x1010yr)

1948

6.0

0.6

1.155

0.2

Liquid
scintillationHaxel, Houtermans,
direct/absolute counting
and Kemmerich 1948

1951

6.15

0.30

1.127

0.09

Liquid scintillation/spectrometerCurran, Dixon, and


direct counting
Wilson 1951

1952

5.90

0.30

1.175

0.09

Liquid scintillation/spectrometer
direct counting
Lewis 1952

1954

6.2

0.3

1.118

0.09

Spectrometer direct counting

1955

4.3

0.25

1.612

0.07

Scintillation/spectrometer directGeese-Bhnisch
counting
1955

1956

5.0

0.2

1.39

0.06

U-Pb
age
minerals

1959

4.70

0.10

1.475

0.031

Liquid
scintillationFlynn and Glendenin
direct/absolute counting
1959

1961

5.25

0.10

1.32

0.03

Scintillation direct counting

1961

5.82

0.1

1.191

0.03

Scintillation/spectrometer directEgelkraut and Leutz


counting
1961

1961

5.53

0.10

1.253

0.03

Scintillation/spectrometer direct
counting
Beard and Kelly 1961

1962

5.80

0.12

1.195

0.04

Scintillation/spectrometer directLeutz,
Wenninger,
counting
and Ziegler 1962

Method

Source

comparison

MacGregor
and
Wiedenbeck 1954

of
Aldrich et al. 1956

McNair and Wilson


1961

Comparison of Rb-Sr and other


ages for stony meteorites
Pinson et al 1963

1963

4.88

1.420

1964

4.77

0.10

1.453

0.03

Liquid
scintillation
direct/absolute counting
Kovch 1964

1965

5.21

0.15

1.33

0.05

Liquid
scintillationBrinkman, Aten, and
direct/absolute counting
Veenboer 1965

1966

4.72

0.04

1.468

0.012

In growth experiment by massMcMullen, Fritze, and


spectrometry
Tomlinson 1966

1974,
1976

4.88

0.06/0.10

1.420

0.030/0.017

Neumann and Huster


Absolute counting experiments 1974, 1976

1977

4.89

0.04

1.419

0.012

In growth
counting

1977

4.88

0.03

1.420

0.010

K-Ar and U-Pb age comparisonsSteiger


of minerals
1977

1982

4.94

0.03

1.402

0.008

U-Th-Pb age comparison with H,Minster. Birck,


E, and LL chondrites
Allgre 1982

1982

4.88

0.03

1.420

0.010

K-Ar comparison
Australian granites

1985

4.94

0.04

1.402

0.011

Sm-Nd + K-Ar age comparisons


of lunar rocks
Shih et al 1985

2001

4.94

0.03

1.402

0.008

Comparisons of all methods

2002

4.95

0.02

1.400

0.007

Comparison of Rb-Sr and U-Th-Amelin and Zaitsev


Pb mineral ages
2002

2003

4.967

0.032

1.395

0.009

Liquid
scintillation
direct/absolute counting
Kossert 2003

2011

4.975

0.010

1.393

0.004

Comparison of Rb-Sr and U-Th-Nebel, Scherer, and


Pb mineral ages
Mezger 2011

2012

4.962

0.008

1.397

0.0015

In growth experiment by mass


spectrometry
Rotenberg et al 2012

experiment

and
Davis et al. 1977

with

and

Jager
and

SE
Williams et al 1982

Begemann et al 2001

Discussion
The values for the 87Rb decay constant used in Rb-Sr age calculations for rocks over the last sixty years have varied
between 1.4710-11yr-1 and 1.3910-11yr-1 (equivalent to half-lives of 46.8Byr and 50.0Byr respectively). The most
commonly used value of 1.4210-11yr-1 (48.8Byr) was adopted by international convention (Steiger and Jger 1977). Two
papers reporting direct determinations of the 87Rb decay constant and half-life that had appeared before preparation of the
report of the 1976 IUGS Subcommission on Geochronology were cited by that 1976 meeting of this Subcommission (Steiger
and Jger 1977) as influencing their recommendation of the 87Rb decay constant of 1.4210-11 yr-1, corresponding to a halflife of 48.8Byr. These were Neumann and Huster (1974), who reported measuring the specific activity of thin sources of
rubidium chloride (RbCl) using a 4 proportional counter to obtain a 87Rb half-life of 4.88+0.06/0.10Byr, and Davis et al.
(1977), who reported continuing the direct mass spectrometric in-growth experiment initiated by McMullen, Fritze, and
Tomlinson (1966) to obtain a 87Rb half-life of 4.890.04Byr.

Fig. 1. Plot of each 87Rb half-life determination versus the year of its determination, color-coded according to the method of
its determination.
Fig. 2. Plot of each 87Rb decay constant determination versus the year of its determination, color-coded according to the
method of its determination.
A third line of evidence cited by Steiger and Jger (1977) as influencing their choice of the recommended value of the 87Rb
decay constant was a comparison of Rb-Sr ages with K-Ar ages presented by Tetley et al. (1976). However, it was later
noted that in Tetley et al. (1976) there was a discernible tendency towards higher calculated 87Rb decay constant values for
lower K-Ar ages, as would be expected if some of the calculated K-Ar ages were too low due to Ar loss (Begemann et al.

2001). Consideration of the more extensive data set of Williams et al. (1982), which contained the data of Tetley et al. (1976)
as a subset, suggested that the average 87Rb constant value provided by this comparison may have been biased high by 1
to 2% 40Ar loss from many of the analyzed samples. This loss may have been due to alteration, as all micas show substoichiometric K concentrations. Shih et al. (1985) compared Rb-Sr ages of lunar KREEP basalts to 39Ar-40Ar ages
calculated with the 40K decay parameters recommended by Steiger and Jger (1977), and found the best agreement for
the 87Rb decay constant was 1.4020.01110-11yr-1 (corresponding to a half-life of 49.4Byr). Although Shih et al. (1985)
compared significantly fewer ages, according to Begemann et al. (2001) the correction for 40Ar loss inherent in the 39Ar-40Ar
technique probably made the value of the 87Rb decay constant they obtained more reliable than that derived by Tetley et al.
(1976). Note, however, that the large uncertainties in the 40K decay constants of Steiger and Jger (1977) undermine the
usefulness of any normalization to this system (Begemann et al. 2001).Thus the value recommended by the
Subcommission did not gain universal acceptance. For example, Minster, Birck, and Allgre (1982) summarized the Rb-Sr
data for chondrites (stony meteorites) from their Paris laboratory, and found the best agreement between the whole-rock RbSr age of those chondrites and their average U-Pb ages of 4.5550.010Ga was for a 87Rb decay constant of 1.4020.008
10-11yr-1(equivalent to a half-life of 49.4Byr). Conversely, the whole-rock isochron for the chondrites yielded an
initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio of 0.698850.00010 and an age of 4.4980.015Ga for an 87Rb decay constant of 1.4210-11yr1
(corresponding to a half-life of 48.8Byr). Since that initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio is similar to other estimates of the initial87Sr/86Sr for
the solar system (for example, BABI, Papanastassiou and Wasserburg 1969), Begemann et al. (2001) concluded there was
no reason to suspect the Rb-Sr isotopic systematics of these chondrites had been reset to an age lower than the U-Pb
age.Thus Begemann et al. (2001), in issuing a call for new revised values, contended that therefore it was totally reasonable
to expect the Rb-Sr and U-Pb ages for these chondrites to be the same. Thus they argued for the 87Rb decay constant of
1.4020.00810-11yr-1 and the equivalent half-life of 49.4Byr proposed by Minster, Birck, and Allgre (1982) to be the new
values. They also pointed out that the most commonly encountered bias factors in determining the 87Rb decay constant all
operated in a single direction, increasing the apparent value of the 87Rb decay constant. Begemann et al. (2001) thus
concluded that there was therefore a significant probability that the value recommended by Steiger and Jger (1977) was
too high by 1 to 2%. Furthermore, they suggested that investigators seeking a precise comparison of Rb-Sr ages to those
determined by other methods should consider the effect on the comparison of using an 87Rb decay constant of 1.40210-11
yr-1, as suggested originally by Minster, Birck, and Allgre (1982), and recommend that the value of the 87Rb decay constant
should be re-determined with improved accuracy.This recommendation for new determinations of the 87Rb decay constant
and half-life with improved accuracy was immediately pursued by Kossert (2003) by liquid scintillation direct counting, and
later by Rotenberg et al. (2012) with in-growth experiments (see table 1). However, rather than confirming the values
Begemann et al. (2001) preferred, Kossert (2003) found from his measurements that the 87Rb half-life should be 49.67
0.32Byr (equivalent to a decay constant of 1.3950.00910-11yr-1). Similarly, Rotenberg et al. (2012) concluded from their
measurements of the 87Sr accumulation in RbClO4 salt over 32 years that the 87Rb half-life should be 49.624 +0.065/-0.095
Byr (equivalent to a decay constant of 1.3968 +0.0027/-0.001810-11yr-1). Furthermore, two more recent studies reported
comparisons between Rb-Sr and U-Pb ages for minerals (Amelin and Zaitsev 2002) and rocks (Nebel, Scherer, and Mezger
2011), and both also suggested lower values for the 87Rb half-life and decay constant than those championed by Begemann
et al. (2001) (see table 1).In order to more clearly see the differences between the determinations made in the last 30 years
by all three methods, the scatter of the early years of determinations was ignored and only the last 30 years results were
plotted using the same color coding for the different methods, the half-life determinations in Fig. 3 and the decay constant
determinations in Fig. 4. For the purpose of this discussion, the two competing values for the half-life (48.8 and 49.4 Byr)
and decay constant (1.4210-11yr-1 and 1.40210-11yr-1 respectively) have been marked on the diagrams by vertical
dashed lines.

Fig. 3. Comparison of the 87Rb half-life determinations obtained in the last 30 years, grouped and color-coded according to
the methods of determination. The vertical dashed lines represent the two competing values for the 87Rb half-life in the
literature, while the vertical dotted line represents the proposed new best value based on the most recent determinations, as
discussed in the text.

Fig.4. Comparison of the 87Rb decay constant determinations obtained in the last 30 years, grouped and color-coded
according to the methods of determination. The vertical dashed lines represent the two competing values for the 87Rb decay
constant in the literature, while the vertical dotted line represents the proposed new best value based on the most recent
determinations, as discussed in the text.The grouping of determinations around a half-life of 48.8Byr corresponding to a
decay constant of 1.4210-11yr-1includes the earlier Neumann and Huster (1974, 1976) direct counting determination and
Davis et al. (1977) in-growth experiment, and the earlier Steiger and Jger (1977) and Williams et al. (1982) geological
comparisons of the whole-rock Rb-Sr and K-Ar ages of rapidly cooled igneous rocks and granites (figs 3 and 4). In stark
contrast, the grouping of determinations around a half-life of 49.4 Byr corresponding to a decay constant of 1.40210-11yr1
championed by Begemann et al. (2001) is only supported by the earlier comparison of ages studies of Minster, Birck, and
Allgre (1982) on Rb-Sr and U-Pb ages of chondrites (stony meteorites) and Shih et al. (1985) on Rb-Sr and Ar-Ar ages of
lunar KREEP basalts (figs 3 and 4).What is also evident in Figs 3 and 4 is that the most recent half-life and decay constant
determinations by Kossert (2003) by direct counting and Rotenberg et al. (2012) by in-growth experiments do not support
the half-life of 49.4Byr and decay constant of 1.40210-11yr-1. And neither do the most recent geological comparisons of
ages studies by Amelin and Zaitsev (2002) and Nebel, Scherer, and Mezger (2011). This observation was not lost on Nebel,
Scherer, and Mezger (2011) and Rotenberg et al. (2012) either, who thus both championed a different longer half-life and
lower decay constant, which are shown in their own compilation diagrams in Figs 5 and 6 respectively.
Indeed, when Amelin and Zaitsevs (2002) fast and slow cooling determinations are separated from the averaging of them
shown in table 1, and plotted in Figs 3 and 4 separately, as they are by Rotenberg et al. (2012) (fig. 6), the slow cooling
determinations plot with the Begemann et al. (2001) championed half-life and decay constant, whereas the fast cooling
determinations plot with the most recent determinations by Kossert (2003) by direct counting, Rotenberg et al. (2012) by ingrowth experiments, and Nebel, Scherer, and Mezger (2011) by comparisons of geological ages. This grouping is shown in
Figs 3 and 4 by dotted lines corresponding to a half-life of 49.67 0.05Byr and a decay constant of 1.395 0.00510-11yr1
. But there is more here in these data than what has been observed by Nebel, Scherer and Mezger (2011) and Rotenberg
et al. (2012). It could be significant that the comparisons of geological ages performed by Amelin and Zaitsev (2002) and
Nebel, Scherer, and Mezger (2011) were based on minerals (baddeleyite, zircon, apatite, phlogopite, biotite, feldspar, and
amphibole) from earth rocks (phoscorites, carbonatites, and syenites) using U-Pb ages as the gold standard, whereas
those of Minster, Birck, and Allgre (1982) and Shih et al. (1985) were based on chondrites (stony meteorites) and lunar
KREEP basalts respectively. Indeed, this same observation that there are differences in the half-life and decay constant
between determinations using earth materials and determinations using meteorites has already been documented for 176Lu
by Albarde et al. (2006). They found that using the earth-based 176Lu decay constant the Lu-Hf ages of chondrites were
consistently 4% higher than their U-Pb ages, so the reconciliation of the Lu-Hf and U-Pb ages required using a different
meteorite-based 176Lu decay constant. Ironically, but significantly, Albarde et al. (2006) proposed that this discrepancy
between decay constants could be because of accelerated 176Lu decay during the first few million years of the existence of
the solar nebula due to
irradiation of the 176Lu by
-rays emitted by one or more
supernova(e) exploding in the
vicinity of the solar nebula.
Fig. 5. Comparison of the 87Rb
decay constant determinations
of the last thirty years
according to Nebel, Scherer,
and Mezger (2011).
Fig. 6. Comparison of the 87Rb
half-life and decay constant
determinations of the last 30
years according to Rotenberg
et al. (2012).
In the related context of
nucleosynthesis
of
the
elements inside stars, Zhao
and Kppeler (1990) found the
absorption cross-section to
produce 176Lu to be small and
hence
found
problems
explaining their data. They
concluded that to reestablish

the 176Lu clock for determining the age of the s-process elements would, in any case, require a quantitative description of all
processes feeding the ground state as well as a reliable model for the s-process environment, in particular for the
temperatures to which 176Lu was exposed during its production and ever since. However, even though these effects of
ionization on the nuclear half-lives can be enhanced inside stars due to the extreme ionization prevalent there, such
contexts are not relevant in the creationist framework for the history of the earth and the universe. The earth and its rocks,
and their contained elements and isotopes, were all created before the stars, the moon, and the asteroids from which the
meteorites subsequently came. And then in their history since their creation neither the earth nor the asteroids have been
subjected to the intense ionization inside stars.There would thus appear to be similar discrepancies in the 87Rb and 176Lu
decay constants and half-lives between determinations using earth materials and determinations using meteorites and lunar
rocks. This is the first time this discrepancy has been recognized for the 87Rb half-life and decay constant. It also may be
relevant that both 87Rb and176Lu decay via the same single-step -decay process, both producing anti-neutrinos and decay
energy. Such discrepancies are a conundrum to conventional wisdom, but may provide new insights for creationist thinking.
Furthermore, even the U-Pb gold standard has come under similar scrutiny in the last decade. The U-Pb method depends
on the crucial 238U/235U ratio, but discrepancies and variations have been found between the 238U/235U ratio in U-bearing
earth-based (terrestrial) minerals and rocks and the 238U/235U ratio in meteorites (Brennecka and Wadhwa 2012; Hiess et al
2012). The potential significance of these discrepancies and variations from a creationist perspective awaits further study,
especially in the context of examinations of the determinations of the 176Lu, 238U, and 235U decay constants and half-lives.
Nevertheless, it is still obvious that in spite of this discrepancy, the most recent earth-based direct counting and in-growth
experimental determinations of the 87Rb half-life and decay constant (Kossert 2003; Rotenberg et al. 2012) coincide with
the 87Rb half-life and decay constant determined via comparisons of Rb-Sr and U-Pb ages of minerals from earth rocks
(Amelin and Zaitsev 2002; Nebel, Scherer, and Mezger 2011), and not with the currently accepted 87Rb half-life and decay
constant (Begemann et al. 2001). And the fact that there are also variations in the crucial 238U/235U ratio in earth minerals and
rocks on which the U-Pb dating gold standard depends, which is so obviously used to calibrate the 87Rb half-life and
decay constant, only underscores that these radioisotope methods cannot provide the absolute invariable dates they are
so confidently proclaimed to provide. It is thus surely significant that the Rb-Sr method has not been used to provide any of
the absolute dates for the GSSPs (global boundary stratotype sections and points) or golden spikes in the official and
approved Geologic Time Scale of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) (International Union of Geological
Sciences 2014; Schmitz 2012a, b).Not only does the potential significance of these discrepancies in the 87Rb and 176Lu halflives and decay constants and the variations in the 238U/235U ratio need further investigating, but also the effect on the Rb-Sr
ages of meteorites in relation to their ages derived by the other radioisotope dating systems, when those Rb-Sr ages are
recalculated using the revised 87Rb half-life and decay constant proposed here (49.67 0.05Byr and 1.395 0.00510-11yr1
). It is possible that such systematically recalculated Rb-Sr ages may introduce a systematic difference between the
meteorites Rb-Sr age ages relative to their ages derived by the other radioisotope dating systems. However, since the
changes in the meteorites Rb-Sr ages introduced by such systematic recalculations would only amount to an increase of
about 0.61.8%, the effect in comparison to their ages derived by the other radioisotope dating systems would likely be
negligible, especially given the error margins in many meteorite age determinations. Thus such recalculated meteorite Rb-Sr
ages would not likely reveal any of the trends that would evidence a past accelerated radioisotope decay event (Vardiman,
Snelling, and Chaffin 2005). This is confirmed by Snelling (2014a, b), who has shown that at least for the chondrites (the
carbonaceous, ordinary and enstatite stony meteorites) there are no indications of any systematic differences in their
isochron ages with respect to their ages derived by the other radioisotope dating systems that would evidence a past
accelerated radioisotope decay event. Instead, their Rb-Sr ages either occasionally agree with the dominant strong clusters
of Pb-Pb ages, or more often are widely scattered either side of those clusters.Finally, it would remain prudent to be very
careful with these geological comparison methods for two reasons. First, there are significant flaws in the basic assumptions
that all of them embrace. Second, the U-Pb method relies primarily on decay whereas the Rb-Sr method relies on
decay. As observed by both Austin (2005) and Snelling (2005), these different decay modes seem to yield different ages for
earth rocks using the same samples with essentially the same methodology. Furthermore, as described earlier, direct
counting by liquid scintillation is fraught with pitfalls when measuring low-level emitters.
Conclusions
There have been numerous attempts to determine the 87Rb half-life and decay constant in the last sixty years by three
methodsdirect counting of -particles, in-growth experiments in which the daughter 87Sr accumulated over a given time is
measured, and comparisons of Rb-Sr ages of earth minerals and rocks, lunar rocks, and meteorites with ages derived by
other radioisotope systems, especially U-Pb. The estimates of the 87Rb half-life are really consistent since 1985. Going back
in time the first inconsistent measurement was by comparison of radioisotope ages for some southeast Australian granites,
and that was just barely inconsistent. Thus the data seem to be simply paralleling the improvements in measurement
technologies with poorly estimated errors.However, with the improved accuracy in such determinations in the last thirty
years, a discrepancy has been revealed which has been debated in the literature, but with no attempted explanation as to
the cause. The discrepancy is between the 87Rb half-life and decay constant (48.8Byr and 1.42 x 10-11 yr-1 respectively)
determined by comparing the Rb-Sr ages of earth rocks against their K-Ar and Ar-Ar ages, and the 87Rb half-life and decay
constant (49.4Byr and 1.40210-11yr-1 respectively) determined by comparing the Rb-Sr ages of meteorites and lunar rocks
with their U-Pb and Ar-Ar ages respectively. The direct counting and in-growth experimental determinations of the 1970s
only agree with the 87Rb half-life of 48.8Byr determined by comparing the Rb-Sr ages of earth rocks against their K-Ar and
Ar-Ar ages. Yet the 87Rb half-life of 49.4Byr determined by comparing the Rb-Sr ages of meteorites and lunar rocks with
their U-Pb and Ar-Ar ages respectively have been championed since the mid-1980s as the best to use in calculating Rb-Sr
ages.Nevertheless, now a further discrepancy has been revealed in the last decade by the most recent 87Rb half-life
determinations. Both new determinations by direct counting and in-growth experiments do not agree with either of the two
previously derived 87Rb half-lives and decay constants. Instead, they only agree with the two new determinations derived
from comparing Rb-Sr ages of further earth minerals and rocks with their U-Pb ages, the so-called gold standard. It is thus
proposed here that these new data define a new and better estimate of the 87Rb half-life and decay constant of 49.67 0.05
Byr and 1.395 0.00510-11yr-1 respectively. Furthermore, this highlights the disparity between determinations using earth
materials and extraterrestrial materials, which is similar to the already documented similar disparity in determinations of
the 176Lu half-life and decay constant. These discrepancies only serve to highlight that the Rb-Sr dating method cannot be
absolute when the 87Rb decay rate has not been accurately determined. When it is calibrated against the U-Pb gold
standard with its own uncertainties in the critical 238U/235U ratio it still cannot be regarded as absolute. Therefore, Rb-Sr
dating cannot be used to discredit the young-earth creationist timescale. However, further study is needed to explore
whether this discrepancy between earth and extraterrestrial materials has any significance.

CARBON DATING
Carbon-14 Dating
Understanding the Basics
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on October 1, 2010; last featured March 30, 2011
Many people assume that rocks are
dated at millions of years based
on radiocarbon (carbon-14) dating.
But thats not the case. The reason
is simple. Carbon-14 can yield
dates of only thousands of years
before it all breaks down.
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The most well-known of all the
radiometric dating methods is
radiocarbon dating. Although many
people think radiocarbon dating is used to date rocks, it is limited to dating things that contain the element carbon and were
once alive (like fossils).
Carbon-14 Dating
Part 1 Understanding the Basics
Part 2 An Evolution DilemmaC-14 in Fossils and Diamonds
Part 3 A Creationist Puzzle50,000-year-old Fossils?
How Radiocarbon Forms
Unlike radiocarbon (14C), the other radioactive elements used to date rocksuranium ( 238U), potassium (40K), and rubidium
(87Rb)are not being formed on earth, as far as we know. Thus it appears that probably those elements were created when
the original earth was formed.In contrast, radiocarbon forms continually today in the earths upper atmosphere. And as far as
we know, it has been forming in the earths upper atmosphere since the atmosphere was made back on the Creation event
So how does radiocarbon form? Cosmic rays from outer space are continually bombarding the upper atmosphere of the
earth, producing fast-moving neutrons (subatomic particles carrying no electric charge) (Figure 1a).1 These fast-moving
neutrons collide with atoms of nitrogen-14, the most abundant element in the upper atmosphere, converting them into
radiocarbon (carbon-14) atoms.
CARBON-14 IS CREATED (Figure
1a): When cosmic rays bombard the
earths atmosphere, they produce
neutrons. These excited neutrons
then collide with nitrogen atoms in the
atmosphere, changing them into
radioactive
carbon-14
atoms.
CARBON-14 IS ABSORBED (Figure
1b): Plants absorb this carbon-14
during photosynthesis. When animals
eat the plants, the carbon-14 enters
their bodies. The carbon-14 in their
bodies breaks down to nitrogen-14
and escapes at the same rate as new
carbon-14 is added. So the level of
carbon-14
remains
stable.
CARBON-14 IS DEPLETED (Figure
1c): When an animal dies the carbon14 continues to break down to
nitrogen-14 and escapes, while no
new carbon-14 is added. By
comparing the surviving amount of
carbon-14 to the original amount,
scientists can calculate how long ago the animal died.Since the atmosphere is composed of about 78% nitrogen, 2 a lot of
radiocarbon atoms are producedin total about 16.5 pounds (7.5 kg) per year. These rapidly combine with oxygen atoms
(the second most abundant element in the atmosphere, at 21%) to form carbon dioxide (CO 2).This carbon dioxide, now
radioactive with carbon-14, is otherwise chemically indistinguishable from the normal carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,
which is slightly lighter because it contains normal carbon-12. Radioactive and non-radioactive carbon dioxide mix
throughout the atmosphere, and dissolve into the oceans.Through photosynthesis carbon dioxide enters plants and algae,
bringing radiocarbon into the food chain. Radiocarbon then enters animals as they consume the plants (Figure 1b). So even
we humans are radioactive because of trace amounts of radiocarbon in our bodies.
Determining the Rate of Radiocarbon Decay
After radiocarbon forms, the nuclei of the carbon-14 atoms are unstable, so over time they progressively decay back to
nuclei of stable nitrogen-14.3 A neutron breaks down to a proton and an electron, and the electron is ejected. This process
is called beta decay. The ejected electrons are called beta particles and make up what is called beta radiation.Not all
radiocarbon atoms decay at the same time. Different carbon-14 atoms revert to nitrogen-14 at different times, which
explains why radiocarbon decay is considered a random process.To measure the rate of decay, a suitable detector records
the number of beta particles ejected from a measured quantity of carbon over a period of time, say a month (for illustration
purposes). Since each beta particle represents one decayed carbon-14 atom, we know how many carbon-14 atoms decay
during a month.Chemists have already determined how many atoms are in a given mass of each element, such as
carbon.4 So if we weigh a lump of carbon, we can calculate how many carbon atoms are in it.If we know what fraction of the

carbon atoms are radioactive, we can also calculate how many radiocarbon atoms are in the lump. Knowing the number of
atoms that decayed in our sample over a month, we can calculate the radiocarbon decay rate.The standard way of
expressing the decay rate is called the half-life.5 Its defined as the time it takes half a given quantity of a radioactive
element to decay. So if we started with 2 million atoms of carbon-14 in our measured quantity of carbon, then the half-life of
radiocarbon would be the time it takes for half, or 1 million, of those atoms to decay. The radiocarbon half-life or decay rate
has been determined at 5,730 years.
Using Radiocarbon for Dating
Next comes the question of how scientists use this knowledge to date things. If carbon-14 has formed at a constant rate for
a very long time and continually mixed into the biosphere, then the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere should remain
constant.If the level is constant, living plants and animals should also maintain a constant carbon-14 level in them. The
reason is that, as long as the organism is alive, it replaces any carbon molecule that has decayed into nitrogen.
After plants and animals perish, however, they no longer replace molecules damaged by radiocarbon decay. Instead, the
radiocarbon atoms in their bodies slowly decay away, so the ratio of carbon-14 atoms to regular carbon atoms will steadily
decrease over time (Figure 1c).Lets suppose we find a mammoths skull and we want to date it to determine how long ago it
lived. We can measure in the laboratory how many carbon-14 atoms are still in the skull. If we assume that the mammoth
originally had the same number of carbon- 14 atoms in its bones as living animals do today (estimated at one carbon-14
atom for every trillion carbon-12 atoms), then, because we also know the radiocarbon decay rate, we can calculate how long
ago the mammoth died. Its really quite simple.This dating method is similar to the principle behind an hourglass.6 The sand
grains that originally filled the top bowl represent the carbon-14 atoms in the living mammoth just before it died. Its assumed
to be the same number of carbon-14 atoms as in elephants living today. With time those sand grains fall to the bottom bowl,
so the new number represents the carbon-14 atoms left in the mammoth skull when we found it.The difference in the
number of sand grains represents the number of carbon-14 atoms that have decayed back to nitrogen-14 since the
mammoth died. Because we have measured the rate at which the sand grains fall (the radiocarbon decay rate), we can then
calculate how long it took those carbon-14 atoms to decay, which is how long ago the mammoth died.Thats how the
radiocarbon method works. And because the half-life of carbon-14 is just 5,730 years, radiocarbon dating of materials
containing carbon yields dates of only thousands of years, not the dates over millions of years that conflict with the
framework of earth history.
Carbon-14 in Fossils and Diamonds
An Evolution Dilemma
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on January 1, 2011
If the radioactive element carbon-14 breaks
down quicklywithin a few thousand years
why do we still find it in fossils and
diamonds? Its a dilemma for evolutionists,
who believe the rocks are millions of years
old.
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Many people think that scientists use
radiocarbon to date fossils. After all, we
should be able to estimate how long ago a
creature lived based on how much radiocarbon is left in its
body, right?
Carbon-14 Dating
Part 1 Understanding the Basics
Part 2 An Evolution Dilemma
Part 3 A Creationist Puzzle
Why Isnt Radiocarbon Used to Date Fossils?
The answer is a matter of basic physics. Radiocarbon
(carbon-14) is a very unstable element that quickly changes
into nitrogen. Half the original quantity of carbon-14 will
decay back to the stable element nitrogen-14 after only
5,730 years. (This 5,730-year period is called the half-life of
radiocarbon, Figure 1).1 2 At this decay rate, hardly any
carbon-14 atoms will remain after only 57,300 years (or ten
half-lives).So if fossils are really millions of years old, as
evolutionary scientists claim, no carbon-14 atoms would be
left in them. Indeed, if all the atoms making up the entire
earth were radiocarbon, then after only 1 million years
absolutely no carbon-14 atoms should be left!
The Power of Radiocarbon Detection Technology
Most laboratories measure radiocarbon with a very
sophisticated instrument called an accelerator mass
spectrometer, or AMS. It is literally able to count carbon-14
atoms one at a time.3 This machine can theoretically detect
one radioactive carbon-14 atom in 100 quadrillion regular
carbon-12 atoms!However, theres a catch. AMS instruments
need to be checked occasionally, to make sure they arent
also reading any laboratory contamination, called
background. So rock samples that should read zero are
occasionally placed into the instruments to test their
accuracy. What better samples to use than fossils, coals, and
limestones, which are supposed to be millions of years old
and should have no radiocarbon?
Radiocarbon Found!

Imagine the surprise when every piece of ancient carbon tested has contained measurable quantities of radiocarbon!
4 Fossils, coal, oil, natural gas, limestone, marble, and graphite from every Flood-related rock layerand even some preFlood depositshave all contained measurable quantities of radiocarbon (Figure 2). All these results have been reported in
the conventional scientific literature.
Figure 1 Radiocarbon has a very short half-life. At current decay rates, the number of radiocarbon atoms is halved every
5,730 years. Because of this exponential decay, carbon-14 atoms cant survive millions of years.
Figure 2 Radiocarbon shouldnt be found in old rocks, but it is! Once creatures die, the radiocarbon in their bodies should
quickly break down. After millions of years, their remains would be completely free of radiocarbon. But samples of organic
materials taken from every rock layer, such as fossils, coal, limestone, natural gas, and graphite, all have measurable
radiocarbon. These findings are reported in the secular scientific literature (but they are usually rejected as measurement
errors).This chart shows the percentage of radiocarbon that remains in 40 samples from various layers throughout the
geologic column. (This percentage, technically known as percent modern carbon [pMC], shows the ratio of radiocarbon in
the rocks and fossils compared to the amount we find in living things).This finding is consistent with the belief that rocks are
only thousands of years old, but the specialists who obtained these results have definitely not accepted this conclusion. It
does not fit their presuppositions. To keep from concluding that the rocks are only thousands of years old, they claim that the
radiocarbon must be due to contamination, either from the field or from the laboratory or from both. However, when the
technician meticulously cleans the rocks with hot strong acids and other pre-treatments to remove any possible
contamination, these ancient organic (once-living) materials still contain measurable radiocarbon.Since a blank sample
holder in the AMS instrument predictably yields zero radiocarbon, these scientists should naturally conclude that the
radiocarbon is intrinsic to the rocks. In other words, real radiocarbon is an integral part of the ancient organic materials.
But these scientists presuppositions prevent them from reaching this conclusion.
Radiocarbon in Fossils Confirmed
Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrew Snelling
Figure 3 Sample from Marlstone Rock Bed, a muddy limestone
in one wall of the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill, west of Banbury
in England. Pieces of fossilized wood in Jurassic rocks,
supposedly millions of years old, yielded radiocarbon ages of
only 20,70028,820 years.For some years creation scientists
have been doing their own investigation of radiocarbon in fossils.
Pieces of fossilized wood in Oligocene, Eocene, Cretaceous,
Jurassic, Triassic, and Permian rock layers supposedly 32250
million years old all contain measurable radiocarbon, equivalent
to ages of 20,700 to 44,700 years (Figures 3
5).5 6 7 8 9 10 11 (Creation geologists believe that with careful
recalibration, even these extremely young time periods would
be fewer than 10,000 years.)Similarly, carefully sampled pieces
of coal from ten U.S. coal beds, ranging from Eocene to
Pennsylvanian and supposedly 40320 million years old, all contained similar radiocarbon levels equivalent to ages of
48,000 to 50,000 years.12 Even fossilized ammonite shells found alongside fossilized wood in a Cretaceous layer,
supposedly 112120 million years old, contained measurable radiocarbon equivalent to ages of 36,400 to 48,710 years
(Figure 5).13
Radiocarbon is Even in Diamonds
Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrew Snelling
Figure 4 Sample from mudstone on top of the Great
Northern Seam in the upper Permian Newcastle Coal
Measures in the Newvale No. 2 Coal Mine north of Sydney,
Australia. A fossilized tree stump, found in Permian layers,
supposedly hundreds of millions of years old, yielded
coalified bark with a radiocarbon age of 33,700 years.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrew Snelling
Figure 5 These fossils were in mudstone of the lower
Cretaceous Budden Canyon Formation near Redding,
California. A fossilized ammonite (a marine shellfish) was
discovered with a piece of fossilized wood (from a land
plant) embedded next to it. Located in Cretaceous layers
that were supposedly millions of years old, the fossilized
shell and wood yielded radiocarbon ages of 48,710 and
42,390 years respectively.
Just as intriguing is the discovery of measurable radiocarbon
in diamonds. Creationist and evolutionary geologists agree
that diamonds are formed more than 100 miles (161 km)
down, deep within the earths upper mantle, and do not
consist of organic carbon from living things. Explosive
volcanoes brought them to the earths surface very rapidly in
pipes.As the hardest known natural substance, these
diamonds are extremely resistant to chemical corrosion and
external contamination. Also, the tight bonding in their
crystals would have prevented any carbon-14 in the
atmosphere from replacing any regular carbon atoms in the
diamond.Yet diamonds have been tested and shown to
contain radiocarbon equivalent to an age of 55,000
years.14 15 These results have been confirmed by other
investigators.16 So even though these diamonds are
conventionally regarded by evolutionary geologists as up to
billions of years old, this radiocarbon has to be intrinsic to

them.This carbon-14 would have been implanted in them when they were formed deep inside the earth, and it could not
have come from the earths atmosphere. This is not such a problem for creationist scientists, but it is a serious problem for
evolutionists.
The Radiocarbon Puzzle
Evolutionary radiocarbon scientists have still not conceded that fossils, coals, and diamonds are only thousands of years
old. Their uniformitarian (slow-and-gradual) interpretation requires that the earths rocks be millions or billions of years old.
They still maintain that the carbon-14 is machine background contaminating all these tested samples.Among their
proposed explanations is that the AMS instruments do not properly reset themselves between sample analyses. But if this
were true, why would the instrument find zero atoms when no sample is in it?It should be noted that radiocarbon ages of
up to 50,000 years dont match the creation time frame, either. The Flood cataclysm was only about 4,350 years ago.
However, these young radiocarbon ages are far more in accord with the creation account than the uniformitarian
timescale. The discovery that diamonds have 55,000-year radiocarbon ages may help us unravel this mystery.The article
in the next issue of Answers magazine will examine how it may be possible to systematically correct radiocarbon ages.
Once radiocarbon is interpreted properly, it should help creationists date archaeological remains from post-Flood human
history.
A Creationist Puzzle
50,000-Year-Old-Fossils
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on April 1, 2011; last featured April 25, 2012
Evolutionists arent the only ones who run into
challenges
when
trying
to
reconcile
radiocarbon dating with their view of history.
How do creationists explain dates of 50,000
years?
Conventional geologists claim that fossils,
coals, and diamonds are millions to billions of
years old. Yet it has now been firmly
established that they still contain measurable
amounts of radiocarbon, which has a half-life (decay rate) of only 5,730 years.1This creates a dilemma for conventional
geology, as explained in Part 2 of this series.2 Absolutely no radiocarbon should be left in fossils, coals, and diamonds,
because after just one million years it should have decayed away.
Carbon-14 Dating
Part 1 Understanding the Basics
Part 2 An Evolution Dilemma
Part 3 A Creationist Puzzle
Yet the radiocarbon in these fossils, coals, and diamonds equates to ages of up to 55,000 years. This is much older than
the creation time frame of earth history, which attributes most fossils and coals to the global Flood about 4,350 years ago.
Assumptions Change Estimate of Age
To solve this puzzle it is necessary to review the assumptions on which radiocarbon dating is based. These include:
The production rate of carbon-14 has always been the same in the past as now.
The atmosphere has had the same carbon-14 concentration in the past as now.
The biosphere (the places on earth where organisms live) has always had the same overall carbon-14 concentration as the
atmosphere, due to the rapid transfer of carbon-14 atoms from the atmosphere to the biosphere.3None of these
assumptions is strictly correct, beyond a rough first approximation. Indeed, scientists have now documented that the
atmospheres concentration of carbon-14 varies considerably according to latitude. They have also determined several
geophysical causes for past and present fluctuations in carbon-14 production in the atmosphere.4Specifically, we know that
carbon-14 has varied in the past due to a stronger magnetic field on earth and changing cycles in sunspot activity. So when
objects of known historical dates are dated using radiocarbon dating, we find that carbon-14 dates are accurate back to only
about 400 BC.The conventional scientific community ignores at least two factors that are crucial to recalibrating radiocarbon
(so that it accounts for major changes in the biosphere and atmosphere that likely resulted from the Flood): (1) The earths
magnetic field has been progressively stronger going back into the past, and (2) the Flood destroyed and buried a huge
amount of carbon from the pre-Flood biosphere.
The Effect of a Past Stronger Magnetic Field
The evidence for the earths having a progressively stronger magnetic field in the past is based on reliable historical
measurements5 and fossil magnetism trapped in ancient pottery.6, 7A stronger magnetic field is significant because the
magnetic field partly shields the earth from the influx of cosmic rays, which change nitrogen atoms into radioactive carbon14 atoms. So a stronger magnetic field in the past would have reduced the influx of cosmic rays.This in turn would have
reduced the amount of radiocarbon produced in the atmosphere. If this were the case, the biosphere in the past would have
had a lower carbon-14 concentration than it does today.The best estimates indicate that the earths magnetic field was twice
as strong 1,400 years ago, and possibly four times as strong 2,800 years ago. If this is true, the earths magnetic field would
have been much stronger at the time of the Flood, and the carbon-14 levels would be significantly smaller.So if you
mistakenly assume that the radiocarbon levels in the atmosphere and biosphere have always been the same as they are
today, you would erroneously estimate much older dates for early human artifacts, such as post-Babel wooden statuettes in
Egypt. And that is exactly what conventional archaeology has done.
The Effect of More Carbon in the Pre-Flood Biospere
An even more dramatic effect on the earths carbon-14 inventory would be the destruction and burial of all the carbon in the
whole biosphere at the time of the Flood. Based on the enormous size of todays coal beds, oil, oil shale, natural gas
deposits, and all the fossils in limestones, shales, and sandstones, a huge quantity of plants and animals must have been
alive when the Flood struck. It is conservatively estimated that the amount of carbon in the pre-Flood biosphere may have
been many times greater than the amount of carbon in todays biosphere.8We cannot yet know for certain how much
radiocarbon (carbon-14) was in this pre-Flood carbon (a mixture of normal carbon-12 and carbon-14). Yet if the earths
atmosphere started to produce carbon-14 (14C) at the Fall, then many radiocarbon atoms could have been in the pre-Flood
biosphere by the time of the Flood, about 1,650 years after Creation.However, if there was a whole lot more normal carbon
(carbon-12, or 12C) in the pre-Flood biosphere, then the proportion of14C to 12C would have been much less than the

proportion in todays biosphere.So when scientists fail to account for so many more plants and animals in the pre-Flood
biosphere and wrongly assume that plants buried in coal beds had the same proportion of carbon-14 as plants do today,
their radiocarbon dating yields ages much higher than the true Flood age of about 4,350 years.
A Prediction Fulfilled
Now if this model of the earths past radiocarbon inventory is correct, then a logical prediction follows. Since all pre-Flood
plants would have had the same low radiocarbon levels when they were buried, and they all formed into coal beds during
that single Flood year, then those coal beds should all have the same low radiocarbon content.
They do! Samples from coal beds around the United States, ranging from Eocene to Pennsylvanian deposits, supposedly
40320 million years old, all contain the same low radiocarbon levels equivalent to ages of 48,00050,000 years.9
This makes sense only if these coal beds were all formed out of pre-Flood plants during the year-long Flood, about 4,350
years ago. Carbon-14 dates of the same value are expected in creation theory but contrary to the expectations of
conventional old-earth theory.
The Puzzle Is Being Solved
So the radiocarbon puzzle can be solved, but only in the creation framework for earth history. Research is therefore
underway to find a means of recalibrating the radiocarbon clock to properly account for the Flood and its impact on dates
for the post-Flood period to the present.For example, conventional radiocarbon dating gives an age of 48,000 years for a
coal bed deposited during the Flood, about 4,350 years ago. This could be explained if the 14C/12C ratio at the time of the
Flood was only 1/200th the ratio of the present world.If scientists assume the ratio is 200 times greater than it really was,
then their radiocarbon age estimate would be exaggerated by 43,650 years.10In reality, calculations (described above) have
led to estimates that the pre-Flood biosphere may have had more than 100 times the carbon-12 as the present earth. Using
this information, we may be able to calculate how much carbon-14 was actually on the early earth at the Flood. This, in turn,
would allow us to develop a proper interpretation of all carbon-14 dates.Once the research is completed, one of the many
exciting benefits is that it should be possible to begin more accurately dating any archeological artifact.

Radiocarbon dating of fossils compares the amount of radioactive carbon atoms (C-14) to regular carbon atoms (C-12).
Conventional dating methods assume the past ratio based on current levels. But what if these assumptions are wrong?
Lower Rate of Radiocarbon (C-14) Production
Cosmic rays bombard the earths atmosphere and produce neutrons. These neutrons collide with nitrogen atoms, changing
them into radioactive carbon atoms (C-14).Conventional dating assumes radiocarbon (C-14) production has remained
stable. But the earths magnetic field, which protects the earth from cosmic rays, was once several times stronger than it is
today. So we would expect much less radiocarbon to be produced in the past. That would result in much less C-14
compared to C-12.
Greater Volume of Regular Carbon (C-12)
Plants absorb carbon atoms during photosynthesis (mostly regular C-12 and little radioactive C-14). With a limited amount of
radiocarbon to go around, more plants would mean less radiocarbon per plant.Coventional dating assumes the volume of
plants and animals in the world has remained relatively stable. But the abundance of fossils indicates that the pre-Flood
worlds shallow seas and temperate climate supported much more plants and animals (containing mostly C-12) than today.
Lower Ratio of Radiocarbon (C-14) to Regular Carbon (C-12)
Radiocarbon begins to break down after plants and animals die. The amount of radiocarbon remaining determines the time
that has passed. Conventional dating assumes the ratio of C-12 to C-14 was the same in animals in the past. But if the ratio
was much lower in the animals in the past, then those animals would have much less radiocarbon to break down after they
died. This would result in much younger dates than conventional methods assume.
Measurable 14C in Fossilized Organic Materials: Conrming the Young Earth Creation-Flood Model
by Dr. Russell Humphreys, Dr. Andrew A. Snelling, Dr. John Baumgardner, and Dr. Steve Austin on February 9, 2011
Abstract
Given the short 14C half-life of 5730 years, organic
materials purportedly older than 250,000 years,
corresponding to 43.6 half-lives, should contain
absolutely no detectable 14C. (One gram of modern
carbon contains about 6 1010 14C atoms, and 43.6
half-lives should reduce that number by a factor of 7.3
10-14.) An astonishing discovery made over the past
20 years is that, almost without exception, when
tested by highly sensitive accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) methods, organic samples from every portion of the
Phanerozoic record show detectable amounts of 14C!14C/C ratios from all but the youngest Phanerozoic samples appear to
be clustered in the range 0.10.5 pmc (percent modern carbon), regardless of geological age. A straightforward conclusion
that can be drawn from these observations is that all but the very youngest Phanerozoic organic material was buried
contemporaneously much less than 250,000 years ago. This is consistent with the creation account of a global Flood that
destroyed most of the air-breathing life on the planet in a single brief cataclysm only a few thousand years ago.
Keywords: radiocarbon, AMS 14C analysis, 14C dead, 14C background,14C contamination, uniformitarianism, young earth,
FloodThis paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, pp. 127
142 (2003) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh (www.csfpittsburgh.
org).

Introduction
Giem1 reviewed the literature and tabulated about 70 reported AMS measurements of 14C in organic materials from the
geologic record that, according to the conventional geologic time-scale, should be 14C dead. The surprising result is that
organic samples from every portion of the Phanerozoic record show detectable amounts of 14C. For the measurements
considered most reliable, the 14C/C ratios appear to fall in the range 0.10.5% of the modern 14C/C ratio (percent modern
carbon, or pmc). Giem demonstrates instrument error can be eliminated as an explanation on experimental grounds. He
shows contamination of the 14C-bearing fossil material in situ is unlikely but theoretically possible and is a testable
hypothesis, while contamination during sample preparation is a genuine problem but largely solved by two decades of
improvement in laboratory procedures. He concludes the 14C detected in these samples most likely is from the organisms
from which the samples are derived. Moreover, because most fossil carbon seems to have roughly the same 14C/C ratio,
Giem deems it plausible that all these organisms resided on earth at the same time.Anomalous 14C in fossil material actually
has been reported from the earliest days of radiocarbon dating. Whitelaw,2for example, surveyed all the dates reported in
the journal Radiocarbon up to 1970, and he commented that for all of the over 15,000 specimens reported, All such matter
is found datable within 50,000 years as published. The specimens included coal, oil, natural gas, and other allegedly
ancient material. The reason these anomalies were not taken seriously is because the older beta-decay counting technique
had difficulty distinguishing genuine low levels of 14C in the samples from background counts due to cosmic rays. The AMS
method, besides its inherently greater sensitivity, does not have this complication of spurious counts due to cosmic rays. In
retrospect, it is likely that many of the beta-counting analyses were indeed truly detecting intrinsic 14C.Measurable 14C in preFlood organic materials fossilized in Flood strata therefore appears to represent a powerful and testable confirmation of the
young earth Creation-Flood model. It was on this basis that Snelling3,4,5,6,7 analyzed the14C content of fossilized wood
conventionally regarded as 14C dead because it was derived from Tertiary, Mesozoic, and upper Paleozoic strata having
conventional radioisotope ages of 40 to 250 million years. All samples were analyzed using AMS technology by a reputable
commercial laboratory with some duplicate samples also tested by a specialist laboratory in a major research institute.
Measurable 14C was obtained in all cases. Values ranged from 7.581.11pmc for a lower Jurassic sample to 0.380.04pmc
for a middle Tertiary sample (corresponding to 14C ages of 20,7001200 to 44,700950 yearsBP, respectively). The 13C
values for the samples clustered around 25, as expected for organic carbon in plants and wood. The 14C measured in
these fossilized wood samples does not conform to a simple pattern, however, such as constant or decreasing with
increasing depth in the geologic record (increasing conventional age). On the contrary, the middle Tertiary sample yielded
the least 14C, while the Mesozoic and upper Paleozoic
samples did not contain similar 14C levels as might be
expected if these represent pre-Flood trees. The issue
then of how uniformly the 14C may have been
distributed in the pre-Flood world we concluded would
likely be an important one. Therefore, our RATE team
decided to undertake further 14C analyses on a new set
of samples to address this issue as well as to confirm
the remarkable 14C levels reported in the radiocarbon
literature for Phanerozoic material.
14
C Measured in Samples Conventionally Dated Older
Than 100,000 Years
Fig. 1. Uniformitarian age as a function of14C/C ratio in
percent modern carbon. The uniformitarian approach
for interpreting the 14C data assumes a constant 14C
production rate and a constant biospheric carbon
inventory extrapolated into the indenite past. It does
not account for the possibility of a recent global
catastrophe that removed a large quantity of carbon
from the biospheric inventory.Giem8 compiled a long list
of AMS measurements made on samples that, based on their conventional geological age, should be 14C dead. These
measurements were performed in many different laboratories around the world and reported in the standard peer-reviewed
literature, mostly in the journals Radiocarbon and Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B. Despite the fact
that the conventional uniformitarian age for these samples is well beyond 100,000 years (in most cases it is tens to
hundreds of millions of years), it is helpful nonetheless to be able to translate 14C/C ratios into the equivalent
uniformitarian 14C age under the standard uniformitarian assumptions of an approximately constant 14C production rate and
an approximately constant biospheric carbon inventory, extrapolated into the indefinite past. This conversion is given by the
simple formula, pmc=1002t/5730, where t is the time in years. Applying this formula, one obtains values of 0.79pmc for t=
40,000 years, 0.24 for t=50,000 years, 0.070pmc for 60,000 years, 0.011pmc for 75,000 years, and .001pmc for 95,000
years, as shown in graphical form in Fig. 1.
Table 1 contains most of Giems9 data plus data from some more recent papers. Included in the list are a number of
samples from Precambrian, that is, what we consider non-organic pre-Flood settings. Most of the graphite samples
with 14C/C values below 0.05pmc are in this category.We display the published AMS values of Table 1 in histogram format in
Fig. 2. We have separated the source material into three categories, (1) those (mostly graphites) that are likely from
Precambrian geological settings and unlikely to contain biological carbon, (2) those that are clearly of biological affinity, and
(3) those (mostly marbles) whose biological connection is uncertain. We show categories (1) and (2) in Figs. 2(a) and 2(b),
respectively, and ignore for these purposes samples in category (3). Some caution is in order with respect to the sort of
comparison implicit in Table 1 and Fig. 2. In some cases the reported values have a background correction, typically on the
order of 0.07pmc, subtracted from the raw measured values, while in other cases such a correction has not been made. In
most cases, the graphite results do not include such background corrections since they are usually intended themselves to
serve as procedural blanks. Therefore, Fig. 2 is to be understood only as a low precision means for comparing these AMS
results.We draw several observations from this comparison, imprecise as it may be. First, the set of samples with biological
affinity display a mean value significantly different from those without such affinity. In terms of the standard geological
timescale, all these samples should be equally 14C dead. The samples with biological affinity display an unambiguously
higher mean than those without such affinity, 0.29 versus 0.06pmc. A second observation is that the variation in 14C content
for the biological samples is large. Although a peak in the distribution occurs at about 0.2pmc, the mean value is near 0.3
pmc with a standard deviation of 0.16pmc.
Table 1. AMS measurements on samples conventionally deemed 14C dead.

Item

14

C/C
(1 S.D.)

(pmc)

Material

Reference

0.71?*

Marble

Aerts-Bijma, Meijer,and van der Plicht10

0.650.04

Shell

Beukens11

0.610.12

Foraminifera

Arnold et al.12

0.600.04

Commercial graphite

Schmidt, Balsley, and Leach13

0.580.09

Foraminifera (Pyrgo murrhina)

Nadeau et al.14

0.540.04

Calcite

Beukens15

0.520.20

Shell (Spisula subtruncata)

Nadeau et al.16

0.520.04

Whale bone

Jull et al.17

0.510.08

Marble

Gulliksen and Thomsen18

10

0.50.1

Wood, 60Ka

Gillespie and Hedges19

11

0.460.03

Wood

Beukens20

12

0.460.03

Wood

Vogel, Nelson, and Southon21

13

0.440.13

Anthracite

Vogel, Nelson, and Southon22

14

0.420.03

Anthracite

Grootes et al.23

15

0.4010.084

Foraminifera (untreated)

Schleicher et al.24

16

0.400.07

Shell (Turitella communis)

Nadeau et al.25

17

0.3830.045

Wood (charred)

Snelling26

18

0.3580.033

Anthracite

Beukens27

19

0.350.03

Shell (Varicorbula gibba)

Nadeau et al.28

20

0.3420.037

Wood

Beukens29

21

0.340.11

Recycled graphite

Arnold et al.30

22

0.320.06

Foraminifera

Gulliksen and Thomsen31

23

0.3?

Coke

Terrasi et al.32

24

0.3?

Coal

Schleicher et al.33

25

0.260.02

Marble

Schmidt et al.34

26

0.23340.061

Carbon powder

McNichol et al.35

27

0.230.04

Foraminifera (mixed species avg.)

Nadeau et al.36

28

0.2110.018

Fossil wood

Beukens37

29

0.210.02

Marble

Schmidt et al.38

30

0.210.06

CO2

Grootes et al.39

31

0.200.35* (range)

Anthracite

Aerts-Bijma et al.40

32

0.200.04

Shell (Ostrea edulis)

Nadeau et al.41

33

0.200.04

Shell (Pecten opercularis)

Nadeau et al.42

34

0.20.1*

Calcite

Donahue et al.43

35

0.1980.060

Carbon powder

McNichol et al.44

36

0.180.05 (range?)

Marble

Van der Borg et al.45

37

0.180.03

Whale bone

Gulliksen and Thomsen46

38

0.180.03

Calcite

Gulliksen and Thomsen47

39

0.180.01**

Anthracite

Nelson et al.48

40

0.18?

Recycled graphite

Van der Borg et al.49

41

0.170.03

Natural gas

Gulliksen and Thomsen50

42

0.1660.008

Foraminifera (treated)

Schleicher et al.51

43

0.162?

Wood

Kirner et al.52

44

0.160.03

Wood

Gulliksen and Thomsen53

45

0.154?**

Anthracite coal

Schmidt et al.54

46

0.1520.025

Wood

Beukens55

47

0.1420.023

Anthracite

Vogel et al.56

48

0.1420.028

CaC2 from coal

Gurnkel57

49

0.140.02

Marble

Schleicher et al.58

50

0.130.03

Shell (Mytilus edulis)

Nadeau et al.59

51

0.1300.009

Graphite

Gurnkel60

52

0.1280.056

Graphite

Vogel et al.61

53

0.1250.060

Calcite

Vogel et al.62

54

0.120.03

Foraminifera (N. pachyderma)

Nadeau et al.63

55

0.1120.057

Bituminous coal

Kitagawa et al.64

56

0.10.01

Graphite (NBS)

Donahue et al.65

57

0.10.05

Petroleum, cracked

Gillespie and Hedges66

58

0.0980.009*

Marble

Schleicher et al.67

59

0.0920.006

Wood

Kirner, Taylor, and Southon68

60

0.090.18* (range)

Graphite powder

Aerts-Bijma et al.69

61

0.090.13* (range)

Fossil CO2 gas

Aerts-Bijma et al.70

62

0.0890.017

Graphite

Arnold et al.71

63

0.0810.019

Anthracite

Beukens72

64

0.08?

Natural graphite

Donahue et al.73

65

0.0800.028

Cararra marble

Nadeau et al.74

66

0.0770.005

Natural gas

Beukens75

67

0.0760.009

Marble

Beukens76

68

0.0740.014

Graphite powder

Kirner et al.77

69

0.07?

Graphite

Kretschmer et al.78

70

0.0680.028

Calcite (Icelandic double spar)

Nadeau et al.79

71

0.0680.009

Graphite (fresh surface)

Schmidt et al.80

72

0.060.11 (range)

Graphite (200 Ma)

Nakai et al.81

73

0.056?

Wood (selected data)

Kirner et al.82

74

0.050.01

Carbon

Wild et al.83

75

0.05?

Carbon-12 (mass sp.)

Schmidt et al.84

76

0.0450.012 (m0.06)

Graphite

Grootes et al.85

77

0.04?*

Graphite rod

Aerts-Bijma et al.86

78

0.040.01

Graphite (Finland)

Bonani et al.87

79

0.040.02

Graphite

Van der Borg88

80

0.040.02

Graphite (Ceylon)

Bird et al.89

81

0.0360.005

Graphite (air)

Schmidt et al.90

82

0.0330.013

Graphite

Kirner et al.91

83

0.030.015

Carbon powder

Schleicher et al.92

84

0.0300.007

Graphite (air redone)

Schmidt et al.93

85

0.0290.006

Graphite (argon redone)

Schmidt et al.94

86

0.0290.010

Graphite (fresh surface)

Schmidt et al.95

87

0.02?

Carbon powder

Pearson et al.96

88

0.0190.009

Graphite

Nadeau et al.97

89

0.0190.004

Graphite (argon)

Schmidt et al.98

90

0.0140.010

CaC2 (technical grade)

Beukens99

*Estimated from graph


**Lowest value of multiple dates
This large spread in 14C content invites an explanation. A third observation, although weaker that the first two, is that the
distribution of values for non-biogenic material displays a peak offset from zero. This may provide a hint that carbon never
cycled through living organismsin most cases locked away in Precambrian geological settingsmay actually contain a
low level of intrinsic 14C.
Coping with Paradigm Conflict
How do the various 14C laboratories around the world deal with the reality that they measure significant amounts of 14C, far
above the detection threshold of their instruments, in samples that should be 14C dead according to the standard geological
timescale? A good example can be found in a recent paper by Nadeau et al.100 entitled, Carbonate14C background: Does it
have multiple personalities? The authors are with the Leibnitz Laboratory at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany.
Many of the samples they analyze are shells and foraminifera tests from sediment cores. It would very useful to them if they
could extend the range for which they could date such biological carbonate material from roughly 40,000 years ago
(according to their uniformitarian assumptions), corresponding to about 1pmc, toward the 0.002pmc limit of their AMS
instrument, corresponding to about 90,000 years in terms of uniformitarian assumptions. The reason they are presently
stuck at this 40,000-year barrier is that they consistently and reproducibly measure 14C levels approaching 1pmc in shells
and foraminifera from depths in the record where, according to the standard geological timescale, there should be no
detectable 14C.

Fig. 2. Distribution of 14C values for (a) non-biogenic samples and (b) biogenic samples from Table 1. Given their position in
the geological record, all these samples should contain no detectable 14C according to the standard geological time scale.
Their paper reports detailed studies they have carried out to attempt to understand the source of this 14C. They investigated
shells from a late Pleistocene coring site in northwestern Germany dated by U/Th methods at 120,000 years. The mean 14C
levels measured in the shells of six different species of mussels and snails varied from 0.1 to 0.5 pmc. In the case of one
species, Spisula subtruncata, measurements were made on both the outside and inside of the shell of a single individual
specimen. The average 14C value for the outside of the shell was 0.3pmc, while for the inside it was 0.67. At face value, this
suggests the 14C/C ratio more than doubled during the lifetime of this organism. Most of their foraminifera were from a
Pleistocene core from the tropical Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa dated at 455,000 years. The foraminifera from
this core showed a range of 14C values from 0.16 to 0.4pmc with an average, taken over 115 separate measurements, of
0.23pmc. A benthic species of foraminifera from another core, chosen because of its thick shell and smooth surface in the
hope its contamination would be lower, actually had a higher average 14C level of 0.58pmc!The authors then performed a
number of experiments involving more aggressive pre-treatment of the samples to attempt to remove contamination. These
included progressive stepwise acid hydrolization of the carbonate samples to CO2 gas and 14C measurement of each of four
separate gas fractions. They found a detectable amount of surface contamination was present in the first fraction collected,
but it was not large enough to make the result from the final gas fraction significantly different from the average value. They
also leached samples in hydrochloric acid for two hours and cracked open the foraminifera shells to remove secondary
carbonate from inside, but these procedures did not significantly alter the measured 14C values.
The authors summarize their findings in the abstract of their paper as follows,
The resultsshow a species-specific contamination that reproduces over several individual shells and foraminifera from
several sediment cores. Different cleaning attempts have proven ineffective, and even stronger measures such as
progressive hydrolization or leaching of the samples prior to routine preparation, did not give any indication of the source of
contamination.
In their conclusion they state,
The apparent ages of biogenic samples seem species related and can be reproduced measuring different individuals for
larger shells or even different sediment cores for foraminifera. Although tests showed some surface contamination, it was
not possible to reach lower 14C levels through cleaning, indicating the contamination to be intrinsic to the sample.
They continue,
So far, no theory explaining the results has survived all the tests. No connection between surface structure and apparent
ages could be established.
The measurements reported in this paper obviously represent serious anomalies relative to what should be expected in the
uniformitarian framework. There is a clear conflict between the measured levels of 14C in these samples and the dates
assigned to the geological setting by other radioisotope methods. The measured 14C levels, however, are far above

instrument threshold and also appear to be far above contamination levels arising from sample processing. Moreover, the
huge difference in 14C levels among species co-existing in the same physical sample violates the assumption that organisms
living together in the same environment should share a common 14C/C ratio. The position the authors take in the face of
these conflicts is that this 14C, which should not be present according to their framework, represents contamination for
which they currently have no explanation. On the other hand, in terms of the framework of a young earth and a recent global
Flood, these measurements provide important clues these organisms are much younger than the standard geological
timescale would lead one to suspect.This same approach of treating measurable and reproducible 14C values in samples
that ought to be 14C dead, given their position in the geological record, as contamination is found throughout the current
literature. Bird,101 for example, freely acknowledge contamination in old samples leads to a radiocarbon barrier:
Detecting sample contamination and verifying the reliability of the ages produced also becomes more difficult as the age of
the sample increases. In practice this means that many laboratories will only quote 14C ages to about 40ka BP (thousands
of 14C years before present), with ages greater than this generally considered to be infinite, or indistinguishable from
procedural blanks. The so-called radiocarbon barrier and the difficulty of ensuring that ages are reliable at <1% modern
carbon levels has limited research in many disciplines.This statement is in the context of a high precision AMS facility the
authors use, capable of measuring 14C levels in the range of <<0.01pmc.In their paper they describe a strategy for
eliminating various types of genuine contamination commonly associated with charcoal samples. A main component of this
strategy is a stepped combustion procedure in which the sample is oxidized to CO2 in a stepwise manner, at temperatures of
330C, 630C, and 850C, with the resulting CO2 fractions analyzed separately using AMS. Oxidation of most of any
surficial contamination generally occurs at the lowest temperature, and the 14C level of the highest temperature fraction is
generally considered the one representing the least contaminated portion of the sample. The variation among the three
fractions is considered a general indicator of the overall degree of contamination. They apply this approach to analysis of
charcoal from one of the early sites of human occupation in Australia.Included in their paper is considerable discussion of
what is known as a procedural blank, or a sample that represents effectively infinite 14C age. For this they use what they
refer to as radiocarbon-dead graphite from Ceylon. They apply their stepped combustion procedure, using only the highest
temperature fraction, on 14 such graphite samples to get a composite value of 0.040.02 pmc for this background material.
They note that a special pre-treatment they use for charcoal samples applied to four of the 14 samples yielded results
indistinguishable from the other 10 graphite samples that had no pre-treatment. They further note that sample size variation
between 0.1 and 2.2mg among the 14 samples also made no difference in the results. From this they acknowledge, the
few 14C atoms observed may already be present in the Ceylon graphite itself. Indeed, they offer no explanation for the fact
that this graphite displays 14C levels well above the detection threshold of their AMS system other than it might be inherent
to the graphite itself.Measuring notable levels of 14C in samples intended as procedural blanks or background samples is a
phenomenon that has persisted from the earliest days of AMS down to the present time. For example, Vogel, Nelson, and
Southon102 describe their thorough investigation of the potential sources and their various contributions to the 14C
background in their AMS system. The material they used for the blank in their study was anthracite coal from a deep mine in
Pennsylvania. An important part of their investigation was variation of the sample size of the blank by a factor of 2000, from
10mg to 20mg. They found that samples 500mg and larger displayed a 14C concentration of 0.440.13pmc, independent of
sample size, implying this 14C was intrinsic to the anthracite material itself. For samples smaller than 500mg, the
measured 14C could be explained in terms of this intrinsic 14C, plus contamination by a constant amount of modern carbon
that seemed to be present regardless of sample size. After many careful experiments, the authors concluded that the main
source of this latter contamination was atmospheric CO 2 adsorbed within the porous Vicor glass used to encapsulate the
coal sample in its combustion to CO2 at 900C. Another source of smaller magnitude was CO2 and CO adsorbed on the
walls of the graphitization apparatus retained from reduction of earlier samples. It was found that filling the apparatus with
water vapor at low pressure and then evacuating the apparatus before the next graphitization mostly eliminated this memory
effect. Relative to these two sources, measurements showed that storage and handling of the samples, contamination of the
copper oxide used in combustion, and contamination of the iron oxide powder used in the graphitization were effectively
negligible. And when the sample size was greater than 500mg, the intrinsic 14C in the coal swamped all the sources of
real 14C contamination. Rather than deal with the issue of the nature of the 14C intrinsic to the anthracite itself, the authors
merely refer to it as contamination of the sample in situ, not [to be] discussed further.
As it became widely appreciated that many high carbon samples, which ought to be 14C dead given their position in the
geological record, had in fact 14C levels far above AMS machine thresholds, the approach was simply to search for specific
materials that had as low a 14C background level as possible.For example, Beukens,103 at the IsoTrace Laboratory at the
University of Toronto, describes measurements on two samples that, from his experience at that time, displayed
exceptionally low background 14C levels. He reports 0.0770.005pmc from a sample of industrial CO2obtained by
combustion of natural gas and 0.0760.009pmc from Italian Carrara marble. Previously for his blank material he had used
an optical grade calcite (Iceland spar) for which he measured a 14C level of 0.15 to 0.13pmc. He emphasizes that the pretreatment, combustion, and hydrolysis techniques applied to these new samples were identical to those normally applied to
samples submitted for analysis to his laboratory and these techniques had not changed appreciably in the previous five
years. He states,The lower 14C levels in these [more recent] measurements should therefore be attributed entirely to the
lower intrinsic14C contamination of these samples and not to changes in sample preparation or analysis techniques.
Note that he indeed considers the 14C in all these materials to be intrinsic, but he has to call it contamination. In his
search for even better procedural blanks, he tested two standard blank materials, a calcite and an anthracite coal, used by
the Geological Survey of Canada in their beta decay counting 14C laboratory. These yielded 14C levels of 0.540.04pmc for
the calcite and 0.360.03pmc for the coal. Beukens noted with moderate alarm that the background corrections being made
by many decay-counting radiocarbon dating facilities that had not checked the intrinsic 14C content of their procedural blanks
by AMS methods were probably quoting ages systematically older than the actual ages. His AMS analysis of the samples
from the Geological Survey of Canada clearly shows these samples are not 14C-free since these levels were markedly
higher than those from his own natural gas and marble blanks.AMS analyses reveal carbon from fossil remains of living
organisms, regardless of their position in the geological record, consistently contains 14C levels far in excess of the AMS
machine threshold, even when extreme pre-treatment methods are applied. Experiments in which the sample size is varied
argue compellingly that the 14C is intrinsic to the fossil material and not a result of handling or pre-treatment. These
conclusions continue to be confirmed in the very latest peer-reviewed papers. Moreover, even non-organic carbon samples
appear consistently to yield 14C levels well above machine threshold. Graphite samples formed under metamorphic and
reducing conditions in Precambrian limestone environments commonly display 14C values on the order of 0.05pmc. Most
AMS laboratories are now using such Precambrian graphite for their procedural blanks. A good question is what possibly
could be the source of the 14C in this material? We conclude that the possibility this 14C is primordial is a reasonable one.
Finding 14C in diamond formed in the earths mantle would provide support for such a conclusion. Establishing that nonorganic carbon from the mantle and from Precambrian crustal settings consistently contains inherent 14C well above the

AMS detection threshold would, of course, argue the earth itself is less than 100,000 years old, which is orders of magnitude
younger than the 4.56Ga currently believed by the uniformitarian community.
Results of RATE 14C AMS Analyses
Table 2 summarizes the results from ten coal samples prepared by our RATE team and analyzed by one of the foremost
AMS laboratories in the world. These measurements were performed using the laboratorys high precision procedures
which involved four runs on each sample, the results of which were combined as a weighted average and then reduced by
0.0770.005pmc to account for a standard background of contamination believed to be introduced by sample processing.
This standard background value is obtained by measuring the 14C in a purified natural gas. Subtraction of this background
value is justified by the assumption that it must represent contamination. Fig. 3 displays these AMS analysis results in
histogram format.
Table 2. Results of AMS 14C analysis of ten RATE coal samples.
Sample

Coal Seam Name

State

County

Geological Interval

14

DECS-1

Bottom

Texas

Freestone

Eocene

0.300.03

DECS-11 Beulah

North Dakota

Mercer

Eocene

0.200.02

DECS-25 Pust

Montana

Richland

Eocene

0.270.02

DECS-15 Lower Sunnyside

Utah

Carbon

Cretaceous

0.350.03

DECS-16 Blind Canyon

Utah

Emery

Cretaceous

0.100.03

DECS-28 Green

Arizona

Navajo

Cretaceous

0.180.02

DECS-18 Kentucky #9

Kentucky

Union

Pennsylvanian

0.460.03

DECS-21 Lykens Valley #2

Pennsylvania

Columbia

Pennsylvanian

0.130.02

DECS-23 Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania

Washington

Pennsylvanian

0.190.02

DECS-24 Illinois #6

Illinois

Macoupin

Pennsylvanian

0.290.03

C/C (pmc)

Details of RATE Sample Selection and Analysis


The ten samples in Table 2 were obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy Coal Sample Bank maintained at Penn
State University. The coals in this bank are intended to be representative of the economically important coalfields of the
United States. The original samples were collected in 400-pound quantities from recently exposed areas of active mines,
where they were placed in 30-gallon steel drums with high-density gaskets and purged with argon. As soon as feasible after
collection, these large samples were processed to obtain representative 300g samples with 0.85mm particle size (20
mesh). These smaller 300g samples were sealed under argon in foil multilaminate bags and have since been kept in
refrigerated storage at 3C. We selected ten of the 33 coals available with an effort to obtain good representation
geographically as well as with respect to depth in the geological record. Our ten samples include three Eocene, three
Cretaceous, and four Pennsylvanian coals.
Fig. 3. Histogram representation of AMS 14C analysis of
ten coal samples undertaken by RATE 14C research
project.
The 14C analysis at the AMS laboratory we selected
involves first processing the coal samples to make
graphite targets and then counting the relative numbers
of atoms from the different carbon isotopes in the
accelerator mass spectrometer system. The accelerator
generates an intense ion beam that ionizes the graphite
on the target, while the mass spectrometer uses electric
and magnetic fields to separate different atomic species
by mass and charge and counts the numbers of triply
ionized 14C, 13C, and 12C atoms. The sample processing
consists of three steps:combustion, acetylene
synthesis, and graphitization.The coal samples are first
combusted to CO2 and then converted to acetylene
using a lithium carbide synthesis process. The
acetylene is then dissociated in a high voltage AC
electrical discharge to produce a circular disk of
graphite on spherical aluminum pellets that represent the targets for the AMS system. Four separate targets are produced
for each sample. Every target is analyzed in a separate AMS run with two modern carbon standards (NBS I oxalic acid).
Each target is then analyzed on 16 different spots (organized on two concentric circles). The advantage of this procedure
over a single high precision measurement is that a variance check (typically a T-test) can be performed for the 16 spots on
each target. If an individual target fails this variance test, it is rejected. While this has advantages for any kind of sample, it is
particularly useful for samples with very low 14C levels because they are especially sensitive to contamination. While great
care is taken to prevent target contamination after the graphitization step, it nevertheless can happen. Any contaminated
spot or any contaminated target would bias the average. This variance test attempts to identify and eliminate this source of
error.
Table 3 gives the measurements in pmc from the four separate targets for our ten coal samples. The numbers in
parentheses are the percent errors, calculated from the 14C count rate of the sample and the two NBS standards and from
the transmission of errors in the 12C and 13C current measurements of the sample and two standards. The composite results
in Table 2 represent the weighted averages of these numbers in Table 3 and the subtraction of a standard background of
0.0770.005pmc.
Table 3. Detailed AMS 14C measurements for 10 RATE coal samples in pmc.

The background standard of this AMS


laboratory is CO2 from purified natural gas
that provides their background level of
DECS-1 0.398 (12.0%) 0.355 (13.2%) 0.346 (15.1%) 0.346 (15.1%)
0.0770.005pmc. This same laboratory
DECS-11 0.237 (18.2%) 0.303 (14.8%) 0.292 (17.8%) 0.294 (17.2%)
obtains values of 0.0760.009pmc and
0.0710.009pmc, respectively, for Carrara
DECS-25 0.342 (13.3%) 0.359 (15.3%) 0.352 (14.2%) 0.328 (14.8%)
Marble (IAEA Standard Radiocarbon
Reference Material C1) and optical-grade
DECS-15 0.416 (13.1%) 0.465 (12.2%) 0.467 (12.2%) 0.377 (13.6%)
calcite from Island spar. They claim this is
one of the lowest background levels
DECS-16 0.184 (25.0%) 0.233 (21.8%) 0.141 (38.4%) 0.163 (34.0%)
quoted among AMS labs, and they
attribute this low background to their
DECS-28 0.203 (18.3%) 0.379 (14.5%) 0.204 (21.2%) 0.204 (21.2%)
special graphitization technique. They
DECS-18 0.533 (11.8%) 0.539 (11.4%) 0.492 (11.6%) 0.589 (10.0%)
emphasize backgrounds this low cannot
be realized with any statistical significance
DECS-21 0.183 (22.0%) 0.194 (20.0%) 0.230 (18.2%) 0.250 (18.0%)
through only one or two measurements,
but many measurements are required to
DECS-23 0.225 (18.1%) 0.266 (13.8%) 0.246 (18.7%) 0.349 (13.2%)
obtain
a
robust
determination.The
laboratory has carefully studied the
DECS-24 0.334 (19.7%) 0.462 (17.5%) 0.444 (13.4%) 0.252 (25.8%)
sources of error within its AMS hardware,
and regular tests are performed to ensure these remain small. According to these studies, errors in the spectrometer are
very low and usually below the detection limit since the spectrometer is energy dispersive and identifies the ion species by
energy loss. The detector electronic noise, the mass spectrometric inferences (the E/q and mE/q 2 ambiguities), and the
cross contamination all contribute less than 0.0004pmc to the background. Ion source contamination as a result of previous
samples (ion source memory) is a finite contribution because 5080% of all sputtered carbon atoms are not extracted as
carbon ions and are therefore dumped into the ion source region. To limit this ion source memory effect, the ion source is
cleaned every two weeks and critical parts are thrown away. This keeps the ion source contamination at approximately
0.0025pmc for the duration of a two-week run. Regular spot checks of these contributions are performed with a zonerefined, reactor-grade graphite sample (measuring 14C/12C ratios), and blank aluminum target pellets (measuring 14C only).
The laboratory claims most of their quoted system background arises from sample processing. This processing involves
combustion (or hydrolysis in the case of carbonate samples), acetylene synthesis, and graphitization. Yet careful and
repeated analysis of their methods over more than 15 years have convinced them that very little contamination is associated
with the combustion or hydrolysis procedures and almost none with their electrical dissociation graphitization process. By
elimination they conclude that the acetylene synthesis must contribute almost all of the system background. But they can
provide little tangible evidence it actually does. Our assessment from the information we have is that the system background
arises primarily from 14C intrinsic to the background standards themselves. The values we report in Table 2 and Fig. 3
nevertheless include the subtraction of the laboratorys standard background. In any case, the measured 14C/C values are
notably above their background value.
Making Sense of the 14C Data
How does one make sense of these 14C measurements that yield a uniformitarian ages of 40,00060,000 years for organic
samples, such as our coal samples, that have uniformitarian ages of 40350 million years based on long half-life isotope
methods applied to surrounding host rocks? Clearly there is an inconsistency. Our hypothesis is that the source of the
discrepancy is the interpretational framework that underlies these methods. Could the proposition, articulated 180 years ago
by Charles Lyell, that the present is the key to the past be suspect? Could the standard practice employed all these years
by earth scientists and others of extrapolating the processes and rates observed in todays world into the indefinite past not
be reliable after all? As authors of this paper we are convinced that there is abundant observational evidence in the
geological record that the earth has experienced a global tectonic catastrophe of immense magnitude that is responsible for
most of the Phanerozoic geological record. We are persuaded it is impossible any longer to claim that geological processes
and rates observable today can account for the majority of the Phanerozoic sedimentary record. To us the evidence is
overwhelming that global scale processes operating at rates much higher than any observable on earth today are
responsible for this geological change.104,105,106,107 Not only are the 14C data at odds with the standard geological
timescale, but the general character of the sedimentary and tectonic record is as well. We realize for many such a view of
the geological data is new, or at least controversial. For those new to this possibility we urge reading of some of our papers
on this topic (for example, Austin108, Baumgardner109,110,111). We are convinced that not only do the observations
strongly support this interpretation of the geological record, but the theoretical framework also now exists to explain it
(Baumgardner112,113,114). Our approach for making sense of these 14C data, therefore, is to do so in the light of a major
discontinuity in earth history in its not so distant past, an event we correlate with the Flood described in the in many ancient
documents.
What was the Pre-Flood 14C Level?
What sorts of 14C/C ratios might we expect to find today in organic remains of plants and animals buried in a single global
cataclysm correlated with all but the latter part of the Phanerozoic geological record (that is, Cambrian to middle-upper
Cenozoic)? Such a cataclysm would have buried a huge amount of carbon from living organisms to form todays coal, oil,
and oil shale, probably most of the natural gas, and some fraction of todays fossiliferous limestone. Estimates for the
amount of carbon in this inventory are at least a factor of 100 greater than what currently resides in the
biosphere.115,116,117 This implies the biosphere just prior to the cataclysm would have had at least 100 times the total
carbon relative to our world today. Living plants and animals would have contained most of this biospheric carbon, with only
a tiny fraction of the total in the atmosphere. The vast majority of this carbon would have been 12C, since even today only
about one carbon atom in a trillion is 14C.To estimate the pre-cataclysm 14C/C ratio we of course require an estimate for the
amount of 14C. As a starting point we might assume the total amount was similar to what exists in todays world. If that were
the case, and this 14C were distributed uniformly, the resulting 14C/C ratio would be about 1/100 of todays level, or about 1
pmc. This follows from the fact that 100 times more carbon in the biosphere would dilute the available 14C and cause the
biospheric14C/C ratio to be 100 times smaller than today. But this value of 1pmc is probably an upper limit because there are
reasons to suspect the total amount of 14C just prior to the cataclysm was less, possibly much less, than exists today. Two
important issues come into play here in regard to the amount of pre-Flood 14Cnamely, the initial amount of 14C after
creation and the 14C production rate in the span of time between creation and the Flood catastrophe. We have seen already
there are hints of primordial 14C in non-biogenic Precambrian materials at levels on the order of 0.05pmc. This provides a
clue that the 14C/C ratio in everything containing carbon just after creation might have been on the order of 0.1pmc. But it is
Sample

Target 1

Target 2

Target 3

Target 4

also likely 14C was added to the biosphere between creation and the Flood. The origin of 14C in todays world is by cosmic
ray particles in the upper atmosphere changing a proton in the nucleus of a 14N atom into a neutron to yield a 14C atom. Just
what the 14C production rate prior to the cataclysm might have been is not easily constrained. It could well have been lower
than today if the earths magnetic field strength were higher and resulting cosmic ray flux lower. But perhaps it was not. In
any case, given the 5,730-year half-life of 14C, it is almost certain the less than 2,000 year interval between creation and the
Flood was insufficient for 14C to have reached an equilibrium level in the biosphere. If the 14C production rate itself was
roughly constant, then the 14C/C ratio in the atmosphere would have been a steadily increasing function of time across this
interval. Hence, we conclude the pre-Flood 14C/C ratios were likely no greater than 1pmc but also highly variable, especially
in the case of plants, depending on when during the interval they generated their biomass.
In addition to the preceding considerations, we must also account for the 14C decay that has occurred since the cataclysm.
Assuming a constant 14C half-life of 5,730 years, the 14C/C ratio in organic material buried, say, 5,000 years ago would be
reduced by an additional factor of 0.55. When we combine all these factors, we conclude it is not at all surprising organic
materials buried in the cataclysm should display the roughly 0.050.5pmc we actually observe. We note that when these
considerations are included, especially the larger pre-cataclysm carbon inventory, a 14C/C value of 0.24pmc, for example, is
consistent with an actual age of 5,000 years. By contrast, when these considerations are not taken into account, the
uniformitarian formula, pmc=1002t/5730, displayed in graphical form in Figure 1, yields an age of 50,000 years. Yet
in either case, the 14C ages are still typically orders of magnitude less than those provided by the long half-life radioisotope
methods.In this context it is useful to note that 14C/C levels must have increased dramatically and rapidly just after the
cataclysm, assuming near modern rates of 14C production in the upper atmosphere, due to the roughly hundredfold
reduction in the amount of carbon in the biospheric inventory. The large variation in 14C levels between species as well as
from the outside to the inside of a single shell as reported by Nadeau et al.118 indeed seems to suggest significant spatial
and temporal variations in this dynamic period during which the planet was recovering from the cataclysm.
Effect of Accelerated Decay on Pre-Flood 14COther RATE projects are building a compelling case that episodes of
accelerated nuclear decay must have accompanied the creation of the earth as well as the Global Flood.119,120,121 We
believe several billions of years worth of cumulative decay at todays rates must have occurred for isotopes such as 238U
during the creation of the physical earth, and we now suspect a significant amount of such decay likely also occurred during
the Flood cataclysm. An important issue then arises as to how an episode of accelerated decay during the Flood might have
affected a short half-life isotope like 14C. The fact that significant amounts of 14C are measured routinely in fossil material
from organisms alive before the cataclysm argues persuasively that only a modest amount of accelerated 14C decay
occurred during the cataclysm itself. This suggests the possibility that the fraction of unstable atoms that decayed during the
acceleration episode for all of the unstable isotopes might have been roughly the same. If the fraction were exactly the
same, this would mean that the acceleration in years for each isotope was proportional to the isotopes half-life. In this case,
if 40K, for example, underwent 400Ma of decay during the Flood relative to a present half-life of 1250Ma, then14C would
have undergone (400/1250)*5730 years=1,834 years of decay during the Flood. This amount of decay represents 12
(1834/5730)
=20% reduction in 14C as a result of accelerated decay. This is well within the uncertainty of the level of 14C in the
pre-Flood world so it has little impact on the larger issues discussed in this paper.
Discussion
The initial vision that high precision AMS methods should make it possible to extend 14C dating of organic materials back as
far as 90,000 years has not been realized. The reason seems to be clear. Few, if any, organic samples can be found
containing so little 14C! This includes samples uniformitarians presume to be millions, even hundreds of millions, of years
old. At face value, this ought to indicate immediately, entirely apart from any consideration of a Flood catastrophe, that life
has existed on earth for less than 90,000 years. Although repeated analyses over the years have continued to confirm
the 14C is an intrinsic component of the sample material being tested, such 14C is still referred to as contamination if it is
derived from any part of the geological record deemed older than about 100,000 years. To admit otherwise would fatally
undermine the uniformitarian framework. For the creationist, however, this body of data represents obvious support for the
recent creation of life on earth. Significantly, the research and data underpinning the conclusion that 14C exists in fossil
material from all portions of the Phanerozoic record are already established in the standard peer-reviewed literature. And the
work has been performed largely by uniformitarians who hold no bias whatever in favor of this outcome. The evidence is
now so compelling that additional AMS determinations by creationists on samples from deep within the Phanerozoic record
can only make the case marginally stronger than it already is.Indeed, the AMS results for our ten coal samples, as
summarized in Table 2 and Fig. 3, fall nicely within the range for similar analyses reported in the radiocarbon literature, as
presented in Table 1 and Fig. 2(b). Not only are the mean values of the two data sets almost the same, but the variances are
also similar. Moreover, when we average the results from our coal samples over geological interval, we obtain mean values
of 0.26pmc for Eocene, 0.21 for Cretaceous, and 0.27 for Pennsylvanian that are remarkably similar to one another. These
results, limited as they are, indicate 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 fossil record up to somewhere within the middle-upper Cenozoic is the
product of a single recent global catastrophe. On the other hand, an explanation for the notable variation in 14C level among
the ten samples is not obvious. One possibility is that the 14C production rate between creation and the Flood was
sufficiently high that the14C levels in the pre-Flood biosphere increased from, say, 0.1pmc at creation to perhaps as much as
1pmc just prior to the Flood. Plant material that grew early during this period and survived until the Flood would then contain
low levels of 14C, while plant material produced by photosynthetic processes just prior to the cataclysm would contain much
higher values. This situation would prevail across all ecological zones on the planet, and so the large variations in 14C levels
would appear within all stratigraphic zones that were a product of the Flood.Moreover, in contrast to the uniformitarian
outlook that 14C in samples older than late Pleistocene must be contamination and therefore is of little or no scientific
interest, such 14C for the creationist potentially contains vitally important clues to the character of the pre-Flood world. The
potential scientific value of these 14C data in our opinion merits a serious creationist research effort to measure the 14C
content in fossil organic material from a wide variety of pre-Flood environments, both marine and terrestrial. Systematic
variations in 14C levels, should they be discovered, conceivably could provide important constraints on the time history of 14C
levels and 14C production, the pattern of atmospheric circulation, the pattern of oceanic circulation, and the carbon cycle in
general in the pre-Flood world.Furthermore, a careful study of the 14C content of carbon that has not been cycled through
living organisms, especially carbonates, graphites, and diamonds from environments believed to pre-date life on earth,
could potentially place very strong constraints on the age of the earth itself. The data already present in the peer-reviewed
radiocarbon literature suggests there is indeed intrinsic 14C in such materials that cannot be attributed to contamination. If
this conclusion proves robust, these reported 14C levels then place a hard limit on the age of the earth of less than 100,000
years, even when viewed from a uniformitarian perspective. We believe a creationist research initiative focused on this issue
deserves urgent support.
Conclusion

The careful investigations performed by scores of researchers in more than a dozen AMS facilities in several countries over
the past 20 years to attempt to identify and eliminate sources of contamination in AMS 14C analyses have, as a by-product,
served to establish beyond any reasonable doubt the existence of intrinsic 14C in remains of living organisms from all
portions of the Phanerozoic record. Such samples, with ages from 1500Ma as determined by other radioisotope methods
applied to their geological context, consistently display 14C levels that are far above the AMS machine threshold, reliably
reproducible, and typically in the range of 0.10.5pmc. But such levels of intrinsic 14C represent a momentous difficulty for
uniformitarianism. A mere 250,000 years corresponds to 43.6 half-lives for 14C. One gram of modern carbon contains about
61010 14C atoms, and 43.6 half-lives worth of decay reduces that number by a factor of 71014. Not a single atom of 14C
should remain in a carbon sample of this size after 250,000 years (not to mention one million or 50 million or 250 million
years). A glaring (thousand-fold) inconsistency that can no longer be ignored in the scientific world exists between the AMSdetermined 14C levels and the corresponding rock ages provided by 238U, 87Rb, and 40K techniques. We believe the chief
source for this inconsistency to be the uniformitarian assumption of time-invariant decay rates. Other research reported by
our RATE group also supports this conclusion.122,123,124 Regardless of the source of the inconsistency, the fact that 14C,
with a half-life of only 5,730 years, is readily detected throughout the Phanerozoic part of the geological record argues the
half billion years of time uniformitarians assign to this portion of earth history is likely incorrect. The relatively narrow range
of 14C/C ratios further suggests the Phanerozoic organisms may all have been contemporaries and that they perished
simultaneously in the not so distant past. Finally, we note there are hints that 14C currently exists in carbon from
environments sealed from biospheric interchange since very early in the earth history. We therefore conclude the 14C
evidence provides significant support for a model of earths past involving a recent global Flood cataclysm and possibly also
for a young age for the earth itself.
Radiocarbon Ages for Fossil Ammonites and Wood in Cretaceous Strata near Redding, California
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on December 10, 2008
Abstract
Fossil ammonites from lower Cretaceous mudstones in northern California, which are supposedly 112120 million years old
and biostratigraphic index fossils, were sampled along with fossil wood buried with them. Fragments of two fossil ammonite
shells and four pieces of fossil wood yielded easily measurable radiocarbon (14C) equivalent to apparent 14C ages of
between 36,400350 and 48,710930 years for the ammonites, and between 32,780230 and 42,390510 years for the
wood. Any contamination with modern 14C due to the sample environment and handling was eliminated by the laboratorys
severe pre-treatment procedure. Any alleged contamination due to sample combustion or AMS instrument background was
more than compensated for by the laboratory background of 0.077 pMC already having been subtracted from the reported
results. The ammonite shells could not have been contaminated in the ground by replacement with modern carbonate 14C
either, because they yielded almost identical 14C apparent ages as the wood buried and fossilized with them. It was
concluded that the measured 14C is in situ radiocarbon intrinsic to the ammonites and wood when they were buried and
fossilized. So once past conditions in the atmosphere and biosphere are taken into account, their true ages are consistent
with their burial during the Global Flood only about 4,300 years ago, when the ocean waters washed sediments and
ammonites onto the continents.
Keywords: Fossil ammonites, Fossil wood, Lower Cretaceous, Radiocarbon, Apparent ages, Contamination, Pre-treatment
procedure, Laboratory background, In situ radiocarbon, True ages, Flood
Introduction
Measurable 14C (radiocarbon) has been detected in fossils from the earliest days of radiocarbon dating. In many instances,
according to their supposed uniformitarian ages those fossils should be completely 14C-dead, that is, all 14C originally in them
should have decayed, so they should not have any 14C left in them.When these data are put in perspective, their deadly
significance to the uniformitarian timescale is readily apparent. 14C has a half-life of 5,730 years. If an organism when it was
buried and fossilized contained the level of 14C currently in plants and animals, then after one million years, corresponding to
174.5 14C half-lives, the fraction of the original 14C remaining would be 3 10-53. However, a mass of 14C equal to the entire
mass of the earth (6 1024 kg) contains only about 3 1050 14C atoms (Baumgardner 2005). Thus, not a single atom of 14C
formed even 1 million years ago anywhere in or on the earth should conceivably still exist. Therefore, there should be
absolutely no measurable 14C able to be detected in fossils claimed to be a million or more years old.Whitelaw (1970)
surveyed all the 14C dates reported in the journal Radiocarbon up to 1970 and found that for more than 15,000 samples, all
such matter was datable within 50,000 years as published. These samples included coal, oil, natural gas, and other
allegedly very ancient (> one million years old) material. The scientific community never took these anomalies seriously,
because these measurements were obtained using the -decay counting technique, by which it was difficult to distinguish
between the decay of 14C atoms and background cosmic rays. Thus, for samples such as these whose location in the
geological record mandated they were so old they should be 14C dead, the measurable 14C levels detected were simply
attributed to measurement errors that had incorporated the cosmic ray background.The accelerator mass spectrometer
(AMS) method was developed in the early 1980s. It superseded the -decay counting technique, because it counts 14C
atoms directly and so is not compromised by background cosmic rays. Snelling (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000a, b, 2008) had
samples of fossilized woods, from Tertiary, Mesozoic and upper Paleozoic strata conventionally dated as 30 to 250 million
years old, 14C tested using the AMS method at two laboratories. In all cases 14C levels were obtained that are well above the
AMS detection threshold. Values ranged from 7.581.11 pMC (percent modern carbon, that is, percent of the modern
atmospheric 14C/C ratio) for a lower Jurassic sample to 0.380.04 pMC for a middle Tertiary sample. This range in the 14C/C
ratio implies radiocarbon ages of between 20,7001200 and 44,700950 years, respectively, assuming the modern
atmospheric 14C/C ratio existed when these trees were alive. Such 14C contents in these fossilized woods limit their ages to
only thousands of years, contrary to their conventional uniformitarian ages of tens to hundreds of millions of years.
Giem (2001) tabulated about seventy AMS measurements, published between 1984 and 1998 in the standard radiocarbon
literature, all of organic materials that yielded significant levels of 14C when according to their conventional uniformitarian
ages they should be entirely 14C dead. These organic materials included not only fossilized wood, but natural graphite, coal,
natural gas, oil, fossilized shells and bones, and even marble, from every portion of the Phanerozoic (Cambrian to Recent)
geologic record. All contained detectable 14C levels well above the AMS threshold, with the 14C/C ratios from those
measurements considered the most reliable falling in the 0.1-0.5 pMC range. Giem (2001) argued that instrument error
could be eliminated as an explanation on experimental grounds. He further showed that contamination of the 14C-bearing
fossil material in situ was unlikely, but theoretically possible, and was a testable hypothesis. While contamination during
sample preparation was a genuine problem, the conventional literature showed that it could be reduced to low levels by
proper laboratory procedures. He concluded, therefore, that the detected 14C in these samples most likely originates from
the original organisms themselves.Baumgardner et al. (2003) and Baumgardner (2005) selected ten coal samples from the
U. S. Department of Energy Coal Sample Bank maintained at Pennsylvania State University. These ten samples provided

good representation of U.S. coals geographically as well as with respect to depth in the geologic record. Three were Eocene
coals, three Cretaceous, and four Pennsylvanian, spanning 40300 million years on the conventional uniformitarian
timescale. The AMS 14C/C results ranged from 0.100.03 pMC in a Utah Cretaceous coal to 0.460.03 pMC in a Kentucky
Pennsylvanian coal (with the laboratorys standard background of 0.0770.005 pMC subtracted). Of added significance
were the averages of the results for each geologic time intervala mean value of 0.26 pMC for the Eocene coals, 0.21 pMC
for the Cretaceous coals, and 0.27 pMC for the Pennsylvanian coals. These data were interpreted as implying that all these
coal beds are, in reality, the same 48,00050,000 radiocarbon years age, which is consistent with their deposition in the
Flood year of the creation timescale.Baumgardner (2005) also had twelve diamonds tested for 14C by the AMS method. Five
of these diamonds were from underground mining of volcanic kimberlite pipes at Kimberley (South Africa), and at Orapa and
Letlhakane (Botswana), while the sixth diamond was from the Kankan alluvial deposit in Guinea (West Africa), and the other
six diamonds were from alluvial deposits in Namibia. In conventional terms, all these diamonds are regarded as hundreds of
millions to billions of years old, having been sourced from the earths mantle. The AMS 14C/C results ranged from 0.100.03
pMC for the Kimberley diamond to 0.390.02 pMC for one of the Namibian alluvial diamonds (with the laboratorys standard
background of 0.0770.005 pMC not subtracted). The average of the values for the five diamonds from kimberlite mines
was 0.04 pMC, and for the seven alluvial diamonds 0.12 pMC, after the laboratorys standard background was subtracted.
Similar detectable levels of 14C have been confirmed more recently in other diamonds (Taylor and Southon 2007). This may
suggest this 14C is intrinsic to the diamonds, which being extremely resistant to contamination almost certainly have not
experienced any recent exchange of their carbon atoms with those in the atmosphere.For more than two decades the
conventional radiocarbon specialists have struggled to understand and explain these significant amounts of 14C, intrinsic to
all these organic materials and diamonds, that they have measured well above the threshold of their AMS instruments, when
these materials should be 14C dead according to their standard uniformitarian geologic timescale. Invariably they have been
forced by their paradigm to conclude that this 14C principally represents intrinsic contamination in the samples when they
arrived at the laboratories, with the minor possibilities of background 14C added to the samples in the laboratories during
processing, and of instrument background due to the detectors and ion beam (Beukens 1990; Bird et al. 1999; Nadeau et al.
2001; Taylor and Southon 2007; Vogel, Nelson, and Southon 1987). However, contamination due to laboratory processing of
samples can be effectively ruled out, due to the harsh chemical treatment of samples designed to remove all possible
contamination, even that from handling of samples during field collection, storage and dispatch to the laboratory.
Furthermore, the14C levels being measured in these ancient organic materials after sample preparation swamps any 14C
attributable to the supposed laboratory processing and/or instrument backgrounds.On the other hand, if the long-ages
uniformitarian timescale is rejected, then these ancient organic materials would not necessarily be 14C dead, particularly if
they really were only 6,000 or so years old since the time of Creation. In this timescale the carbon cycle suffered a
catastrophic upheaval at the time of the Flood cataclysm about 4,500 years ago, so 14C ages of 48,00050,000 years for
coal beds deposited during that event cannot be absolute or real time ages. Ultimately, what is needed is a method of
recalibrating these radiocarbon years with the realtime, creation framework of earth history, which takes into account the
effects of the Flood, the post-Flood Ice Age, and the decreasing strength of the earths magnetic field. In the meantime, it is
important to continue increasing the database of radiocarbon levels in ancient organic materials from the geologic record.
To-date there appears to be no 14C data for two different types of ancient organic materials fossilized together in the geologic
record. It would surely be expected that co-fossilized organic materials should contain similar 14C levels, because the
organisms would have originally lived at the same time. However, if in situ contamination is the problem claimed by the
conventional uniformitarian view for these elevated 14C levels in ancient organic materials, the different co-fossilized organic
materials might be expected to have different 14C levels. This would be due to the different modes of supposed
contamination of the different organic materials. A test of just this situation is available in the Cretaceous strata of Ono
Quadrangle near Redding in northern California, where wood has been found fossilized with ammonites.
Click to enlarge.
Fig. 1. Map showing the location of the Ono Quadrangle straddling the
boundary between Shasta and Tehama Counties near Redding in
northern California.
The Cretaceous Strata and Fossils of Ono Quadrangle
The location of the Ono Quadrangle, near Redding in northern
California, is shown in Fig. 1. It straddles the boundary between Shasta
and Tehama Counties west of Interstate 5 between Red Bluff and
Redding. Fig. 2 (after Rodda and Murphy 1987) is a geologic map of
the Ono Quadrangle. Of interest are the lower Cretaceous strata of the
Budden Canyon Formation.
Previous Work
The geology and paleontology of the area, known as the Cottonwood
District, have been described in numerous scientific publications
spanning more than 140 years, including some of the earliest
geological studies in California (Whitney, 1864, 1865). Diller (1889, 1893) and Diller
and Stanton (1884) provided more information on the geology of the Cretaceous
rocks of the Cottonwood District than any paper for the subsequent 60 years. The
latter included a generalized geologic section along the North Fork of Cottonwood
Creek with lists of fossils collected at several generalized stratigraphic
horizons.Diller (1894) was the first to describe the late Cenozoic non-marine
deposits of the Cottonwood District. Anderson (1902, 1938, 1958) was responsible
for describing the Cretaceous fossils from the Pacific coast, mostly Californian
ammonites, accompanied by syntheses and generalized discussions of the
stratigraphy and historical geology. However, his geologic and locality data were an
inadequate basis for subsequent investigations. Instead, Anderson and Russell
(1939) remains the basic documentation of the geology and stratigraphy of the late
Cenozoic, nonmarine deposits of the northern Sacramento valley, including the
Tehama and Red Bluff Formations of Shasta County. In the area which this study
focuses on, it has been supplanted by later more detailed publications.
Click to enlarge.
Fig. 2. Geologic map of the Ono Quadrangle, showing the exposed area of the lower Cretaceous Budden Canyon
Formation (after Rodda and Murphy 1981).

The principal sources of geologic data for the Cottonwood District of the Ono Quadrangle are detailed geologic maps,
detailed stratigraphic sections, and detailed information on the stratigraphic relationships at fossil collecting sites provided by
subsequent papers. Murphy, Rodda, and Morton (1969) provides a detailed geologic study of the area. Stratigraphic studies
with data on fossil collecting include Murphy (1956), which provides data for lower Cretaceous rocks, and Murphy and
Rodda (1959, 1960), which provide data on the areas upper Cretaceous rocks. Jones, Murphy, and Packard (1965), and
Hill (1975), provide data for the Huling Creek-North Fork of Cottonwood Creek area.Many other publications discuss the
general distribution and relationships of the geological and fossiliferous units exposed in the Cottonwood District. These
include Hacket (1966), Ingersoll (1979), Ingersoll, Rich, and Dickinson (1977), Lachenbruch (1962), Murphy, Peterson, and
Rodda (1964), Ojakangas (1968), Olmstead and Davis (1961), Peterson (1966, 1967), Pierce (1983), Popenoe, Imlay, and
Murphy (1960), and Repenning (1960).
The shells of Cretaceous marine mollusks, including gastropods (snails), bivalves (clams, oysters, etc.), scaphopods (tusk
shells), and cephalopods (ammonites, nautiloids), are by far the most abundant and most extensively described fossils in
the Cottonwood District. Of these, the most widely distributed are the ammonites. They are also the most important
scientifically, because they serve as the standard index fossils for determining biostratigraphic ages through the Mesozoic
(the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods) and for establishing correlations with rock units in distant areas.
For more than 145 years the ammonites and other fossil invertebrates from the Cottonwood District have thus been the
subject of numerous papers. Nearly 300 named species of invertebrate fossils have been recognized in the Cretaceous
rocks of the area, including 180 species of ammonites, 50 species of gastropods, 50 species of bivalves, 1 species of
scaphopod, and 3 species of brachiopods. Of these, 50% were described as new species on the basis of the specimens
collected, or probably collected, in the area, mostly from the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek and the Huling Creek
drainages.The majority of the fossil species recorded from the Cottonwood District were described in reconnaissancelevel
reports, based on highly generalized, commonly inaccurate, locality and stratigraphic data. One of the first fossils described
in California was an ammonite from the Cottonwood District, which provided the first recognition of Cretaceous rocks in
California (Trask 1855). Gabb (1864, 1869), papers issued by the Second Geological Survey of California (the Whitney
Survey), are the first major paleontological reports to describe Californian Cretaceous fossils. Many species were recorded
from the Cottonwood District, including some 35 new species based on specimens probably collected along the North Fork
of Cottonwood Creek or along Huling Creek. Stewart (1926, 1930) reviewed and redescribed Gabbs Californian species of
fossil gastropods and bivalves, without providing any new geologic data.Stanton (1893) and Diller and Stanton (1894)
provide lists of fossil species (mostly mollusks) collected from generalized stratigraphic horizons along the North Fork of
Cottonwood Creek and Huling Creek. Other early paleontological reports that mention the Cottonwood District include White
(1885) and Cooper (1888). Anderson (1902, 1931, 1938, 1958) made extensive collections from the Cottonwood District,
describing almost 100 new species (mostly ammonites) based on specimens from, or probably from, the drainage areas of
the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek and Huling Creek.Murphy (1956), though he did not extensively describe or discuss the
fossils, provided the first detailed geologic map, locality data, and accurate stratigraphic placement of the fossils of the
Cottonwood District. That paper, and similar work by Rodda (1959) on the upper Cretaceous rocks, provided the initial
stratigraphic and locality data on which several later paleontological studies were partly based. These papers, which include
the descriptions of many new species and the redescription of old ones, are Hill (1975), Jones, Murphy, and Packard (1965),
Matsumoto (1959a, b, 1960), Murphy (1967a, b, c), Murphy and Rodda (1959, 1960, 1977), Popenoe (1957), and Saul
(1973). Matsumoto (1959a, b, 1960) represent a major review of the Californian upper Cretaceous ammonites based
principally on a compilation of collections and locality data from many sources.Other descriptive paleontological papers that
include fossils from the Cottonwood District are Saul and Popenoe (1962) and Wiedman (1962). Murphy, Rodda, and
Morton (1969) provide additional important geologic and biostratigraphic data for the Ono Quadrangle, while Murphy (1975)
is a detailed study of the stratigraphy and paleontology of the lower Cretaceous strata, including those within the
Cottonwood District. Since the compilation of Rodda and Murphy (1985) there have been only two further papers that
directly concern the invertebrate fossils of the Cottonwood District, namely, Saul (1978) and Popenoe, Saul, and Susuki
(1987), both of which describe bivalves and gastropods.The few, non-molluscan, Cretaceous invertebrates that have been
described or recorded from the Cottonwood District include brachiopods and shelled microfossils. Brachiopods are
uncommon, and only three species have been recorded (Anderson 1938; Murphy 1956). Rodda and Murphy (1985)
reported a diverse assemblage of marine microfossils, including 41 species of foraminifera, 23 species of radiolarian, and 2
unidentified species of ostracods. They also reported three shark teeth and a single fish vertebra from the area. More
recently, a further single shark tooth, two fish teeth, one fish scale, and two sections of fish vertebra have been found
(Franklin, personal communication). No other vertebrate fossils have been recorded from the areas Cretaceous rocks.
Petrified and carbonized wood are common fossils in many parts of the Cottonwood District. Twigs, leaves and other plant
parts have been noted, but there are few published records for the area. Ward (1905) mentions dicotyledonous leaves
from near the mouth of Huling Creek, but those fossils were never specifically identified or described. Eight species of
Cretaceous plants were identified by Fontaine (1905) from specimens collected from
a tributary of the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek. Some of those specimens were
redescribed by Miller (1975).Chandler and Axelrod (1961) described one of the
earliest fossil angiosperms from a specimen collected by Murphy and Rodda in
lower Cretaceous strata along the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek. However,
Wolfe, Doyle, and Page (1975) questioned the angiosperm affinities of this
specimen, so its significance is equivocal. Nevertheless, Rodda and Murphy (1985)
reported undetermined angiosperm seeds, conifer twigs, and seed fern parts from
two localities in the same area. More recently, a number of plant seed pods as well
as tree cones with seeds have been found in the Cottonwood area (Franklin,
personal communication).
Geology
Two principal geological units are exposed in the Cottonwood District in the northern
part of Ono Quadranglethe Cretaceous (late Flood) marine sedimentary units of
the Budden Canyon Formation, and the overlying non-marine, undifferentiated
Tehama-Red Bluff Formations of Pliocene and Pleistocene (post-Flood) age (Rodda
and Murphy, 1978, 1985, 1987). Even younger are the thin river terrace deposits
and modern channel and floodplain deposits along the major streams. The general
distribution of these major geological units is indicated in Fig. 2. They are part of the
extensive suite of Mesozoic and Cenozoic rocks that crop out on the western side of
the Sacramento River valley. Only the Cretaceous rocks and their fossils are of
significance to this study.

Click to enlarge.
Fig. 3. Diagrammatic classification of the members of the Budden Canyon formation plotted against the biostratigraphic
stages of the Cretaceous and the geologic timescale as determined by radioisotope dating (after Gradstein et al. 2004 and
Rodda and Murphy 1987). The approximate stratigraphic positions of the local strata columns from which each samples was
collected is also shown.The Budden Canyon Formation is composed of predominantly gray-colored, marine mudstone,
siltstone, sandstone, and conglomerate, and has been subdivided into seven members (fig. 3). In the Cottonwood District
the maximum thickness of the Budden Canyon Formation is about 6,700 meters (22,000 feet) along the Dry Creek-Budden
Canyon type section. To the north the Formation thins. Based on its fossil content the Formation ranges in geologic age from
the early part of the Lower Cretaceous (Hauterivian) at more than 130 million years ago, to the middle part of the Upper
Cretaceous (Turonian) at less than 90 million years ago (Gradstein, Ogg, and Smith 2004), a supposed total time span of at
least 40 million years (fig. 3).
In the area the strata of the Budden Canyon Formation strike north to northeast and dip to the east and southeast (fig. 2).
The oldest (lower) part of the strata sequence is to the west and north where the Formation laps onto the older igneous and
metamorphic rocks of the Klamath Mountains. The principal streams flow eastward and southward across the strike of the
Formation, and expose the strata in regular sequence from oldest to youngest (fig. 2). The Budden Canyon Formation
consists mostly of fine-grained mudstones and siltstones which form rounded hills mantled by deep, mostly grass-covered
soil. Outcrops are virtually confined to the bottoms and banks of streams and gullies.Within the study area (figs. 2 and 4)
only the lower half of the Budden Canyon Formation is exposed. This portion is 900 1,200 meters (3,0004,000 feet) thick
along the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek and Huling Creek drainages. Rodda and Murphy (1987) acquired more detailed
and comprehensive data on the Cretaceous stratigraphy exposed in these drainages, substantiating the accuracy of earlier
mapping, and providing increased documentation of the density and patterns of faulting. They reported that field
observations and examination of air photos indicated numerous small faults in zones parallel to and extending away from
previously known major faults. Thus this extensive faulting, in these Cretaceous strata where there are few distinctive
marker beds, renders most measured stratigraphic sections discontinuous by an unknown, but presumably small, amount.
From their field observations, Rodda and Murphy (1987) maintained that the displacements on these small faults are almost
all less than the thickness of one ammonite zone. Furthermore, this recognition of the abundance of small faults in some
areas (for example, near the confluence of Bee Creek with the North Fork of Cottonwood Creekfig. 4) had required
modification or replacement of some previously measured and described stratigraphic sections.
Click to enlarge.
Fig. 4. Map of the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek drainage area near Ono in the
northern section of Ono Quadrangle, Shasta County, showing the measured
stratigraphic sections from which the fossil samples were collected (after Rodda and
Murphy 1987).
Another feature Rodda and Murphy (1987) reported as now known to be more
extensive than was previously recognized is the early post-depositional submarine
slumping of the Cretaceous strata. This slumping, well exposed in some stream
bluffs, has locally folded, contorted, or disrupted the bedding, and is another cause
of discontinuous measured stratigraphic sections. They also recognized that the
primary sedimentary structures of most of the mudstone and siltstone strata (the most common rock types), and some of the
sandstone layers, have been obliterated by the intensive burrowing of the diverse infauna that must have densely populated
the seafl oor when these Cretaceous sediments were deposited and buried them. These burrowing animals essentially
homogenized the fi ne-grained sediments, except where early-formed calcareous nodules locally stabilized the mud and silt.
Rodda and Murphy (1987) also significantly increased the available data on paleocurrent directions for these Cretaceous
strata, supporting previous conclusions of generally southward-flowing bottom-currents being responsible for their
deposition. Furthermore, they interpreted the presence of two previously unrecognized depositional environments in the
Cretaceous rocks exposed along the North Fork of the Cottonwood Creek. An interval in the upper Albian Stage is marked
by greensands and phosphatic sand grains that accumulated in broad shallow channels. Another interval is marked by
shallow channels filled with a mixture of shallow-water shells, including many oysters, which contrast with the apparently
deep-water aspect of these Cretaceous strata. They claim that the apparent shallow-water interpretation of these deposits is
supported by the recognition of shallow-water foraminifera in this interval.
The Fossils
Well preserved fossil invertebrates, mostly ammonites, are found occasionally in most parts of the Budden Canyon
Formation, but the outcrops along the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek and its tributaries are especially rich collecting sites.
According to Rodda and Murphy (1987) they comprise the finest stratigraphic sequence of Cretaceous fossils in North
America, and possibly the world. Some of the richest outcrops include the exposures along the North Fork of Cottonwood
Creek and the branches of Huling Creek (fig. 4). Some 300 named species of Cretaceous invertebrates have been
described or identified from the numerous fossil localities in this area.Typically, the fossils, especially the ammonites, occur
in limestone nodules scattered in the mudstone and siltstone outcrops. A collecting locality commonly is a single fossiliferous
nodule, and when that is collected the locality no longer exists. Later collecting may discover additional fossils in the same
outcrop after a few years of additional weathering and erosion, but not necessarily at the same spot. Some fossil localities
are in the coarser-grained sandstones and conglomerates, but these mostly contain thickershelled non-ammonite
mollusks.Rodda and Murphy (1987) accurately located the fossils they collected from measured stratigraphic sections along
Bee Creek, Huling Creek and the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek (fig. 4). They found that most collecting localities from
earlier paleontological studies were too generalized or poorly described to be plotted on detailed stratigraphic sections like
theirs. However, they endeavored to carefully locate the stratigraphic horizons where many of the fossil species described in
early publications had been found, but not previously located on detailed measured sections.Rodda and Murphy (1987)
found that within the Cretaceous rocks of this area (fig. 4), invertebrates, mostly mollusks, are the most abundant and
important fossils. Of these, ammonites are the most significant. Other groups they recovered included decapod crustaceans,
bivalves, gastropods, scaphopods, barnacles, and foraminifera. A few specimens of fossil vertebrates and plants (other than
fossil wood) were recovered also. They thus increased the number of fossil collecting sites in this area by at least 50%.
Their study also provided much additional control on stratigraphic-geographic ranges and, by assumption, time relationships
of the known fossil species, especially the ammonites. In addition, the number and diversity of fossil species known to occur
in this area was increased significantly, providing improved documentation of the supposed paleogeography and
evolutionary history. A particular example was their discovery of an ammonite genus, Pictetia, not previously recorded from
the western hemisphere.Rodda and Murphy (1987) recovered approximately 1500 fossil specimens from 609 collecting
localities. From these collections they recognized some 175 species, including about 70 species of ammonites, 40 species

of other invertebrates, and 64 species of microfossils. Of special significance are the ammonites, the extinct group of coiled,
shelled cephalopods, that are found around the world wherever Mesozoic rocks are found. They have thus been studied
intensively for their presumed theoretical and practical values for well over a century, being the principal fossils for
determining the supposed precise geological (biostratigraphic) ages of Mesozoic rocks. The area studied exposes a
remarkable sequence of ammonite-bearing strata, which is especially rich and regarded as complete.Of the 70 species of
ammonites that were recognized in their collections, certain groups were especially well representedthe genera Puzosia,
Lytoceras, Pseudouhligella, Acanthoplites, and heteromorphs (irregularly coiled ammonites) of great variety (Rodda and
Murphy 1987). Their collection also contained genera and species not previously recorded in California
Pictetia sp., Lechites sp., Stoliczkaia sp., Myloceras sp., Lyelliceras sp., and Zelandites sp., of supposed late Albian
age; Colombiceras sp., of supposed Aptian age; and Crioceratites sp. of supposed Barremian age.
An important result related to the evolutionary ammonite biostratigraphy was the discovery by Rodda and Murphy (1987)
that the entire sequence of ammonite zones below the Huling Tongue Member of the Budden Canyon Formation is of
supposed Barremian age (fig. 3). Additionally, underlying older strata of supposed Barremian age (the lower part of the
Chickabally Member) along the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek yielded many and varied fossils, including ammonites,
gastropods, bivalves, nautiloids, belemnites, and decapod crustaceans.
Other molluscan fossils, especially bivalves and gastropopds, are locally common, with richer occurrences of these fossils in
the coarser grained rockssandstone and conglomerate. Some forms discovered by Rodda and Murphy (1987) were new
records for the Cretaceous of California, and several new species were recognized as well. Additionally, they confirmed the
wealth of shrimp-like decapod crustaceans previously reported in these Cretaceous rocks of the Cottonwood District by
Rodda and Murphy (1985). Numerous specimens, mostly isolated claws, representing at least four different species, were
collected from limestone nodules in the drainage of the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek.Trace fossils are abundant and
diverse, especially the filled burrows of benthic infaunal invertebrates such as mud-shrimp and various worms. Most of the
mudstones and siltstones were thoroughly burrowed and homogenized by the burrowing activities of these invertebrate
seafloor animals. Few samples of these could be collected easily by Rodda and Murphy (1987), but they photographically
recorded in the field the varied types and densities. Two basic types are permanent dwelling burrows, mostly vertical, and
errant feeding burrows.
Click to enlarge.
Fig. 5. The local stratigraphic columns from which the fossil samples were collected
(after Rodda and Murphy 1987). The location of these measured stratigraphic
sections is shown on Fig. 4.
The presence of diverse, abundant microfossils in the study area (fig. 4) was
confirmed by Rodda and Murphy (1987). Of these, only the foraminifera and
radiolarian were identifiable. The ostracods and micro-mollusks had not then been
studied in lower Cretaceous rocks of California. They did not recover any coccoliths
from any of their samples. Micromollusks and microscopic parts of other
invertebrates are locally abundant.The only vertebrate fossils recovered from these
Cretaceous rocks were mostly fragmentary fish remains (teeth, scales, and bone).
The only identifiable specimens were shark teeth, one of the family Lamnidae, and
the other from a cow shark, Notidanodon sp., a group not previously reported from
Cretaceous rocks in California.Few fossil plant specimens were collected by Rodda
and Murphy (1987), other than fossil wood which is abundant in several stratigraphic
sections in the study area (fig. 4). A fossil seed, probably from a conifer, was
collected from supposed Barremian age mudstone along the upper drainage of the
North Fork of Cottonwood Creek. Other plant fossils included twigs, conifer leaves,
and a reed fragment.
The Present Study
The purpose of this study was to test the radiocarbon contents of wood and
ammonite shells buried and fossilized together in the same sedimentary rock layers. The literature summarized above
clearly indicates that fossilized wood is abundant within several stratigraphic sections of the Cretaceous Budden Canyon
Formation strata exposed along the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek and its tributaries in the northern part of Ono
Quadrangle near Redding, California. Furthermore, the same stratigraphic sections would undoubtedly also contain
abundant marine invertebrate fossils, especially ammonites. Therefore, a field search in this area would be highly likely to
find marine shells and wood buried and fossilized together. However, ammonite fossils were to be specifically targeted,
because of their stated global significance as index fossils for evolutionary biostratigraphic age determinations of these
strata as lower Cretaceous.Field trips into the study area were undertaken in 2006 by, and with, Pastor Al Franklin, of Grace
Baptist Church in Redding, because of his knowledge of the area and its fossil localities, and because of the permission he
has to enter the private lands of the area, granted him by the landholders. Four suitable ammonite fossils were successfully
found that each had fossilized wood very closely associated with it, the ammonite shells and the wood usually being in direct
physical contact with one another.

Click to enlarge.
Fig. 6. The locations and strata from which the fossilized pieces of wood and ammonites were collected for this study, as
shown in Fig. 4. (a) (b) Sample 1; (c) (d) Sample 2; (e) (f) Sample 3; and (g) (h) Sample 4.
The locations where each of these fossils were found are indicated on Fig. 4. The relevant portions of local stratigraphic
sections, as measured by Rodda and Murphy (1987), with the approximate stratigraphic positions of the ammonite and
wood fossils indicated on them, are provided in Fig. 5. Where those local stratigraphic sections fit in relation to the
stratigraphy of the Budden Canyon Formation is indicated on Fig. 3, along the approximate stratigraphic positions of the
collected fossils. Fig. 6 photographically documents the locations from which the four ammonite with wood fossils were
collected, while Fig. 7 shows the fossils themselves.The four samples were first photographed (fig. 7) before any work was
performed on them. Then, using a scalpel and tweezers, pieces of the ammonite shells and the fossilized wood were
separately broken off of each sample. Pieces were broken off until there appeared to be sufficient material for each
radiocarbon analysis, and then suitably sealed and stored. The fossil samples were numbered 14, so the broken off pieces

of ammonite shell were labelled RNCS-1 to RNCS-4 respectively, and the broken off pieces of fossilized wood were similarly
labelled RNCW-1 to RNCW-4. Sample 4 contained both petrified and coalified wood, so pieces were broken off separately,
and sealed, stored and labelled as RNCW-4A and RNCW-4B respectively. All nine so-labelled sub-samples were then
submitted to Professor Roelf Beukens at the IsoTrace Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Toronto, Ontario,
Canada, each sub-sample being accompanied by this laboratorys required Radiocarbon Sample Submission Form
carefully filled out with location and estimated age details.At this laboratory, the petrified and coalified wood sub-samples
were prepared for radiocarbon analysis with a modified AAAOx pre-treatment (Beukens 2007a, b), the standard procedure
developed to guarantee the elimination of any contamination. First, though, the fossilized wood sub-samples were
demineralized to remove any contaminant inorganic minerals. This involved drenching the sub-samples in hot and strong
hydrochloric acid to dissolve away any calcium, barium, or strontium salts (which is done to avoid producing insoluble
fluorides in the next step), and then soaking the sub-samples for at least a week in a hot and strong mixture of hydrochloric
and hydrofluoric acids. After this, the acid-soluble humics were removed from what remained of the sub-samples with an
extended hot and strong hydrochloric acid treatment. This was followed by an extended cold and fresh alkali extraction.

Click to enlarge.
Fig. 7. The fossilized pieces of wood and ammonites collected for this study from the localities shown in Fig. 4. (a) (b)
Sample 1; (c) (d) Sample 2; (e) (f) Sample 3; and (g) (h) Sample 4.
The laboratory (Beukens 2007 a, b) reported that the dried residues of the petrified
wood sub-samples (RNCW-1, 2, 3, 4A) at this point in the procedure did not have
any wood structure and resembled detrital material. However, it was concluded
that it was possible part of these residues consisted of acid and alkali insoluble
humic or tannic compounds, as their carbon contents were low (typically 10%).
These residues were then partially oxidized using a chlorite bleach. In the case of the coalified wood sub-sample (RNCW4B), however, the dried residue consisted of needles with a carbon content normal for organic material. An acid chlorite
bleach was also used on this residue to partially oxidize it. These five fossilized wood residues were then all degasified
under vacuum before subsequent combustion. Nevertheless, the combustion of petrified wood residue RNCW-4A produced
less than 0.1 mg of datable carbon, which was too small for analysis.The fossilized ammonite shell sub-samples were
prepared by the laboratory for analysis via a different process. However, those labeled RNCS-1 and 3 were deemed to
contain insufficient shell material to be processed and analyzed. The remaining two shell sub-samples were first washed in
cold deionized water. Then the outer surfaces of the shell pieces were removed by leaching with hydrochloric acid, the outer
16% of RNCS-2, and the outer 14% of RNCS-4 (Beukens 2007 a, b). An XRD analysis of the pre-leach residue of RNCS-2
was then undertaken to determine the calcite content of RNCS-2, which was estimated at between 0.5 and 2.0%, the rest of
the shell material consisting of aragonite. An estimate of the calcite content of RNCS-4 could not be made as that subsample material was considered too small for an XRD analysis.The remainder of the ammonite shell material in RNCS-2
and 4 was then processed according to the regular treatment for carbonates, namely, hydrolysis of the carbonate to carbon
dioxide (CO2). To achieve this, phosphoric acid in used because it has a low vapor pressure. First though, the phosphoric
acid has to be degassed to remove any water or atmospheric CO2 which might be dissolved in it. The most common
method of doing this is via vapor distillation, but at the IsoTrace laboratory this technique is not used. Instead, each subsample was mounted in a reactor vessel, containing the phosphoric acid and, in a separate small ampoule, the crushed
shell material, connected to a vacuum pump, which pumps the vessel down to below 10 -4 Tor. By this means the water and
most of the CO2 was first pumped away at around 10-3 Tor, the pressure plateauing at that level until all the water was
removed. When the pressure dropped from around 10-3 Tor to below 10-4 Tor any remaining dissolved gases were removed.
The reactor vessel was then placed on a shaker to initiate and complete the hydrolysis, without ever exposing the contents
to the atmosphere again. The evolved CO2 was then collected on the same collection system which handled the combustion
of the fossilized wood residues. This system is regularly tested by this laboratory with Icelandic spar carbonate and the IAEA
(International Atomic Energy Agency) Carrara marble reference material.The resultant graphite from this treatment and
processing of each of the fossilized wood and ammonite shell fragments was then analyzed for radiocarbon ( 14C) using the
IsoTrace laboratorys state-of-theart AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) system. Four separate high-precision analyses of
each subsample were averaged and corrected for natural and sputtering isotope fractionation, using the measured 13C/12C
ratios. The averaged radiocarbon analysis for each sub-sample reported by the laboratory, after the laboratorys
background correction of 0.077 percent modern carbon (pMC) was subtracted, was quoted as an apparent uncalibrated
radiocarbon age in years before present (BP), using the Libby meanlife of 8,033 years. The quoted errors represent the
68.3% confidence limits.
Results
The results of the radiocarbon analyses are listed in Table 1 (from Beukens 2007 a,b). Note that the laboratory was not able
to analyze sub-samples RNCS-1 and 3 (fossilized ammonite shells) and RNCW-4A (petrified wood) due to insufficient
material. However, the six listed radiocarbon analyses would still seem to provide an adequate database for the purpose of
this study. Note also that the percent modern carbon (pMC) values listed were reported by the laboratory after subtraction of
their background correction of 0.077 pMC. Therefore, if this background correction had not been subtracted, the listed
apparent radiocarbon ages would only be slightly, to negligibly, younger.
Table 1. Radiocarbon (14C) analytical results (pMC) and calculated apparent ages (year BP) for the fossilized wood and
ammonite shells.
Sample

Description

Weight Used (mg)

Percent Modern Carbon (pMC)

Apparent Age (years BP)

RNCW-1

petrified wood

1080

1.8960.013

33,490240

RNCS-2

fossilized shell fragment

386

1.2240.012

36,400350

RNCW-2

petrified wood

4400

1.1180.010

37,150330

RNCW-3

petrified wood

729

1.7400.012

32,780230

RNCS-4

fossilized shell fragment

510

0.2760.005

48,710930

RNCW-4A petrified wood

297

RNCW-4B coalified wood

382

0.5930.007

42,390510

Discussion
Fig. 5 compares the local measured stratigraphic sections for fossil samples 1, 3 and 4 (after Rodda and Murphy 1987) and
indicates the approximate stratigraphic locations of the collected fossil samples 1, 3, and 4. Using the position of the Huling
Tongue Member (sandstone) as a biostratigraphic marker, the approximate biostratigraphic postions of the stratigraphic
sections 1 and 4 have been plotted on Fig 3. (last column). Fossil sample 2 was not collected from a measured stratigraphic
section, but from its location marked on Fig. 4 it can be seen that it lies stratigraphically just below fossil sample 3, and
stratigraphically well above fossil sample 4. These observations thus enable the biostratigraphic position of measured
stratigraphic section 3 relative to measured stratigraphic section 4 (figs. 4 and 5) to be plotted on Fig. 3. Furthermore, the
relative biostratigraphic position of stratigraphic section 2, though not measured, can also be plotted on Fig. 3.The
biostratigraphic positions of the stratigraphic sections from which the four fossil samples were collected as plotted on Fig. 3
enable the approximate biostratigraphic positions, and therefore ages, of the four fossil samples to be determined. The four
fossilized ammonite and wood samples would all appear to be Aptian in biostratigraphic age (lower Cretaceous), which in
terms of the absolute chronology of the geologic timescale equates to approximately 112120 million years old (Gradstein et
al. 2004). However in stark contrast, the fossilized ammonite shells yield radiocarbon ages of only 36,400350 years and
48,710930 years, while the fossilized wood found buried with them (literally, as seen in fig. 7) yielded radiocarbon ages of
32,780230 years to 42,390510 years (table 1).The usual response to such a glaring and enigmatic discrepancy in
absolute ages is to claim that the ammonite shells and wood have obviously been contaminated with modern carbon,
making them date very young when in fact they really are extremely old. After all, as noted earlier, if the entire mass of the
earth consisted only of 14C atoms, then because the decay of 14C is so rapid, after only 1 million years not a single atom
of 14C should conceivably still exist. Therefore, there should be absolutely no measurable 14C able to be detected in these
fossilized ammonite shells and wood if they really are, as claimed to be, 112120 million years old.Four sources of potential
contamination could be invoked in this instance. First, any contamination in the laboratory can be immediately ruled out,
because extreme handling and preparation measures were used in this highly respected academic laboratory, measures
that have proved effective in removing any potential contamination. These included extended use of strong acid at elevated
temperatures to guarantee removal of any carbonate and other minerals that might have contributed modern radiocarbon to
the fossilized wood, and leaching of 1416% of the outer surfaces of the ammonite shells with hydrochloric acid to remove
any modern calcite from the shells that would have substituted for their aragonite and thus contributed modern radiocarbon
to them.However, the only possible contamination that might have been introduced into these fossilized wood and ammonite
shells during laboratory processing to prepare them for analysis could have been at the stage where the evolved CO 2via
combustion was then reduced to graphite. It is quite possible that the acetylene used for this reduction could introduce some
trace modern radiocarbon contamination, or more correctly, the laboratory background. This, however, would be taken care
of by the standard background correction of 0.077 pMC subtracted routinely from the raw analytical results, a procedure that
would thus appear to be legitimate. Nevertheless, it can be readily shown that for radiocarbon ages on the order of 33,000
years or more, the effect of subtracting this standard laboratory background (and therefore the possible contamination due
to the acetylene) is small, almost negligible, on the order of only 1%.That potential trace radiocarbon contamination
introduced at the reduction to graphite by acetylene step equates to the graphitization background suggested by Taylor
and Southon (2007). However, they also suggest four other sources of modern radiocarbon contamination in the laboratory
procedures. These, they claim, are due to the acidification and combustion during the sample preparation, the transfer of the
graphite to the AMS (accelerator mass spectrometer) sample holder, during any storage, and within the AMS instrument if
the detector registers a 14C signal when a 14C-ion is not present in the beam. In order to quantify these potential sources of
modern radiocarbon contamination in the laboratory, Taylor and Southon (2007) analysed natural diamonds for 14C by
placing them directly within the AMS instruments sample holder, thus eliminating the acidification, combustion and
graphitization steps. Of course, they were assuming the diamonds (being in excess of 100 million years old) contained no
radiocarbon, so that any measured by the AMS instrument would be the sum total of their claimed transfer, storage and
instrument backgrounds (that is, modern radiocarbon contamination). Nevertheless, the only 14C they measured ranged from
0.0050.001 to 0.0690.04 pMC. At such a trivial background level, even if such potential laboratory contamination with
modern radiocarbon were conceded, it would make no difference whatsoever to the very much higher radiocarbon levels
within these ammonite shell and wood fossils listed in Table 1. The 0.077 pMC laboratory background already subtracted by
the IsoTrace laboratory would more than adequately cover such contingencies.The second potential source of any
contamination would be any contamination due to handling of the fossil samplesfor example, from human hands or plastic
storage bags. This can also be definitively ruled out, because any such contamination would only have been on the surfaces
of the fossil samples and would have been immediately eliminated by the laboratorys extreme sample preparation
techniques, described earlier. Indeed, in the case of the ammonite shells, significant portions of their outer surfaces were
deliberately leached by hydrochloric acid to remove any such surface contamination. And the fossilized wood samples were
soaked in hot strong acids.The third potential source of contamination would have been the source area in the ground from
where the fossil samples were taken, when they were buried deep below the surface. Here there were definitely two relevant
factors. At the time of deposition of the host sediments and burial of the ammonites and wood in them, some of the water
which transported the sediments would have been trapped in them. Such connate waters and basinal fluids, especially if the
sediments were deposited in a marine environment, could have been quite saline and thus chemically reactive, aided by the
raised temperatures due to the depth of burial. Diagenesis of the host sediments occurred around these fossils, primarily
resulting in the cementing together of the sediment grains. The internal body cavities of the ammonite shells were infilled
with sediments that underwent diagenesis, and the chemical-laden connate waters percolated through the cellular structures
of the buried wood to petrify it. In some cases the wood was coalified, indicative of a depth of burial of thousands of meters
and elevated temperatures of 100C or more (Diessel 1992, Stach et al. 1982), though the presence of clay minerals such
as montmorillonite can significantly lower the temperatures and the time required for coalification (Hayatsu et al. 1984). The
result of these fluids circulating around these ammonite and wood fossils would not have only assisted fossilization,
petrification and coalification, but may have also caused secondary calcite replacement of aragonite in the ammonite shells
and added contaminant carbonate and silicate minerals, and silica (quartz), to the wood.However, no carbonate minerals or
silica were in any way visibly evident within or clinging to the coalified wood when it was sent to the laboratory, although the
petrified wood was obvious impregnated with silica as a result of the petrification process. In any case, such minerals would
have been removed from the fossilized wood, even from within it, by the severe demineralizing treatment in the laboratory.
For example, the hot and strong hydrofluoric acid would have removed the silica impregnating the wood. This is confirmed
by the laboratorys description of the fossilized wood residues (Beukens 2007a, b). Furthermore, the connate waters and
basinal fluids buried deeply with these fossils at the time of introducing dissolved minerals, and impregnating the wood with

silica while possibly replacing some of the aragonite in the ammonite shells with calcite, supposedly more than 100 million
years ago and since, would have only contained old carbon. Thus if such old carbon were added to these fossils, such as in
the calcite replacement of some aragonite in the ammonite shells, if anything it would have swamped any radiocarbon in the
shells and wood, so that they would have yielded infinite radiocarbon ages, consistent with them being supposedly 112120
million years old.This only leaves, finally, the fourth potential source of contaminationnamely, the ground and surface
waters that washed over and percolated through these fossils in their host sedimentary rocks right up until the present when
sampled. The surface waters particularly would likely contain some dissolved carbonate, and the fluctuating water levels in
the streams would have resulted in the alternating wetting and drying of the fossils, the latter depositing whatever salts the
water contained. Furthermore, both the surface waters and the fossils when exposed have been in contact with the modern
radiocarbon in the atmosphere, making contamination of these fossils with modern radiocarbon seem a likely possibility,
which might explain the young apparent radiocarbon ages for these fossils.However, any soluble inorganic carbonate
carbon in the ground and surface waters would not have exchanged with the insoluble organic carbon in the wood, because
the two forms of carbon are incompatible. Also, as noted previously, any carbonate mineral deposited within or onto the
wood by ground or surface waters would have also been removed by the severe demineralizing treatment with hot and
strong acids in the laboratory prior to the radiocarbon analyses. Indeed, the laboratorys reports (Beukens 2007a, b)
described the fossilized wood residues as possibly consisting of humic or tannic compounds and needles with a carbon
content, all of which were insoluble in the hot strong acids and alkalis used in their demineralizing treatment. As it
was only these insoluble organic carbon residues that were subsequently analysed for radiocarbon, there would not have
been any contamination of them with modern radiocarbon from either ground or surface waters or even the atmosphere.
Such exchanges with the wood could only have occurred when the original trees were alive.The only question that remains
is whether the fossil ammonite shells may have been contaminated with modern radiocarbon in any carbonate dissolved in
the ground or surface waters that replaced aragonite in the shells. The laboratory did report (Beukens 2007a) that the preleach residue of the fossilized ammonite shell RNCS-2 had an XRD estimated calcite content of between 0.5 and 2.0%.
While the laboratory did not say that this 0.52.0% calcite content was modern calcite and therefore contamination, it did
indicate that a 0.5% contamination of modern calcite would be equivalent to an apparent age of 43,000 years. Clearly, with
an estimated 0.52.0% calcite content, if this were all modern calcite, then the 36,400350 years apparent radiocarbon age
for the RNCS-2 fossil ammonite shell could all be due presumably to modern calcite contamination. However, Webb et al.
(2007) found that if groundwaters have high Mg:Ca ratios, then modern aragonite could be added to fossil bivalve shells,
which could also adversely affect radiocarbon dating of such shells. Nevertheless, in respect of this RNCS-2 fossil ammonite
shell, the fossilized wood RNCW-2 buried with it (fig. 7c & d), which has been demonstrated already not to have been
contaminated with any modern radiocarbon, yielded an almost identical apparent radiocarbon age of 37,150330 years
(table 1). Similarly, the fossilized ammonite shell RNCS-4 yielded an apparent radiocarbon age of 48,710930 years, and
the coalified wood RNCW-4B buried with it (fig. 7g & h) yielded a similar apparent radiocarbon age of 42,390510 years
(table 1). If both these fossilized ammonite shells were contaminated with modern calcite containing modern radiocarbon,
then they should both have yielded very young apparent radiocarbon ages, much younger than the apparent radiocarbon
ages for the fossilized wood buried with them. Quite clearly, if these fossilized woods are not contaminated with modern
radiocarbon, then the similar apparent radiocarbon ages for the fossilized ammonite shells buried with them strongly implies
that these fossilized ammonite shells are not contaminated with modern radiocarbon either, even from ground or surface
waters.These second to fourth sources of potential contamination are all outside the radiocarbon laboratories and out of
their control, so collectively they have been termed in situ contamination (Vogel et al. 1987) or pseudo 14C-free sample
background (Taylor and Southon 2007). This term has been defined as 14C present in carboniferous material that should
not contain 14C because of its geologic age (Taylor and Southon 2007). That definition unashamedly reveals the bias in
assuming such carboniferous material is indeed of geologic age, that is, millions of years old. Moreover, this terminology
was introduced by the radiocarbon laboratories over twenty years ago because it was embarrassing that they routinely
found radiocarbon levels of 0.25 pMC or more in ancient carboniferous materials (such as coal, calcite, and fossilized wood)
that should be truly 14C free due to their supposed geologic ages (Brown and Southon 1997). To put this into perspective, a
measured value of 0.25 pMC is some 450 times higher than the measurement threshold for the AMS instrument. Indeed, all
the fossilized wood and ammonite shells analysed in this study yielded pMC levels >0.25 (table 1). Furthermore, as has
been forcefully argued already, the severe hot strong acid treatment on the fossilized wood had to have removed any and all
potential pre-laboratory in situ contamination. Also, the ammonite shells buried and fossilized with them yielded similar
measured high radiocarbon levels, suggesting that the radiocarbon measured in both the fossilized wood and ammonite
shells was not pre-laboratory in situ contamination or pseudo 14C-free sample background.It can only be concluded,
therefore, that the radiocarbon measured by the laboratory must be real in situ radiocarbon intrinsic to the original wood and
ammonite shells, and not contamination of any sort. This does not imply that this radiocarbon is a reliable measure of the
true age of the wood and the ammonites. In fact, other fossilized woods analyzed for radiocarbon have yielded various
apparent radiocarbon ages from 22,730170 years (Snelling 2000a) to 44,700950 years (Snelling 1997, 2000b). However,
these measured radiocarbon levels do indicate that the wood and ammonites are young, and not 112120 million years old.
Clearly, the long-age biostratigraphic dating method, using the ammonites and their relative position in the supposed
evolutionary history of life on earth calibrated against the absolute ages provided by radioisotope dating (Gradstein et al
2004), is totally unreliable. Furthermore, the unproven assumptions on which radioisotope dating is based, and the
numerous problems associated with it, are well documented (Snelling 2000c, 2005; Woodmorappe 1999).It should also be
noted that these radiocarbon ages for the fossilized wood and ammonites were calculated on the assumption that these
fossilized ammonite shells and pieces of wood had similar radiocarbon contents, when they lived and then were buried
together, to the radiocarbon contents of modern marine invertebrate shells and terrestrial trees. However, this assumption
can be shown to be false for at least two reasons. First, the Flood removed so much carbon from the biosphere and buried
it. There was all the carbon in both marine and land animals, and all the plants, which were destroyed and buried as fossils
in Flood-deposited sediments, such as limestones and coal beds. Second, the earths magnetic field was much stronger in
the recent past back to the Flood, and perhaps stronger also back to the Creation Week (Humphreys 1983, 1986, 1990). A
stronger magnetic field, relative to the present field, would shield the earths atmosphere from more cosmic rays, thus
resulting in a much lower radiocarbon production rate in the atmosphere through the pre-Flood period when these
ammonites and trees lived. These two factors alone thus would have meant that there was much less radiocarbon in ancient
organic materials when they were buried during the Flood about only 4,300 years ago. Therefore, if it is wrongly assumed
these ammonite shells and pieces of wood contained todays much higher radiocarbon level when they were buried
together, then the measured low levels of radiocarbon in them yield apparent ages that are much too old.What is now
required is a recalibration of the apparent radiocarbon ages for these supposedly ancient organic materials that would
significantly reduce their true ages to make them compatible with the creation timescale of earth history. However, so far
there doesnt appear to be a discernible systematic pattern of radiocarbon levels (and apparent ages) in the ancient organic

materials tested, such as fossilized woods and coal beds, with respect to their relationship to the timing of their burial during
or soon after the Flood. For example, the radiocarbon testing of ten U. S. coal beds spanning a significant portion of the
fossil-bearing strata record, from the Carboniferous (Pennsylvania), Cretaceous and Eocene, yielded apparent ages of
48,00050,000 years (Baumgardner 2005; Baumgardner et al 2003). If the Eocene is considered to be very early post-Flood
(Austin et al 1994), then why do these Eocene coal beds yield the same apparent radiocarbon ages as the Pennsylvanian
(Flood) coal beds? Perhaps the Eocene coal beds also consist of pre-Flood plant debris that floated through the Flood and
then was buried very soon after. In contrast, the fossilized woods buried as a result of what may be post-Flood (Eocene and
Oligocene) volcanic eruptions apparently decimating post-Flood forests around Crinum, Queensland (Snelling 1997, 2000b)
and Cripple Creek, Colorado (Snelling 2008) yielded apparent radiocarbon ages of 44,700950 years and 41,260540 years
respectively. These latter apparent ages might then be consistent with an expected early post-Flood radiocarbon buildup
which could have produced younging upwards apparent ages. However, in this study the Cretaceous (late Flood buried) four
fossilized woods yielded apparent radiocarbon ages of 32,780230 years to 42,300510 years, younger than the
Cretaceous coal beds. Similar younger apparent radiocarbon ages of 33,700400 years, 33,720430 years, and
22,730170 years to 28,820350 years were obtained for Floodburied Permian (Snelling 1998), Triassic (Snelling 1999),
and Jurassic (Snelling 2000a) fossilized woods respectively. Perhaps the low radiocarbon levels in the pre-Flood world were
unevenly distributed in the biosphere, according to varying abilities of organisms for radiocarbon uptake or rejection.
Continuing investigations are needed.Nevertheless, Baumgardner (2005) has suggested, based on earlier studies (Brown
1979; Giem 2001; Morton 1984; Scharpenseel and Becker-Heidmann 1992), that the pre-Flood biosphere and atmosphere
just prior to the Flood could have had, conservatively, 300700 times the total carbon relative to our present worlds
biosphere and atmosphere. Then if we assume the total number of 14C atoms was similar to what exists in todays world,
and these were uniformly distributed throughout the pre-Flood biosphere which had 500 times more total carbon than
todays biosphere, then the resulting 14C/C ratio would be 1/500 of todays level, or about 0.2 pMC, which is equivalent to an
apparent radiocarbon age of more than 50,000 years. However, Baumgardner (2005) also took into account the amount
of 14C potentially generated in situ from an episode of accelerated nuclear decay during the Flood catastrophe (Vardiman,
Snelling, and Chaffin 2005), which could have been comparable to, or even larger than, the amount of 14C that existed in the
tissues of pre-Flood organisms. Furthermore, with a stronger magnetic field in the pre-Flood world reducing the 14C
production rate in the atmosphere, in the 1,650 or so years between Creation and the Flood it is likely that only a smaller
amount of 14C would have been generated compared to todays total amount of 14C atoms. Therefore, the pre-Flood 14C/C
ratio would have been much lower, and more or less uniform, say 0.050.1 pMC, while the in situ component would have
been much more variable and dependent on the local U concentrations and amounts of N during the subsequent
accelerated nuclear decay episode. This might then account for the wide range of low radiocarbon levels measured in the
pieces of pre-Flood wood (referred to above) that were buried and fossilized in sediments during the Flood only about 4,300
years ago while an episode of accelerated nuclear decay was also occurring.Finally, one further circumstance warrants a
comment, namely, the fact that these ammonites and pieces of wood are found buried and fossilized together. The host
mudstones have always been designated as having been deposited in a marine environment, in water deep enough for
ammonites to have lived, presumably a continental shelf or shallow sea environment. However, woody trees do not live in
such environments. And even pieces of wood washed out to sea today float, rather than sinking to be buried on the sea floor
with marine invertebrates similar to ammonites. Thus these pieces of terrestrial wood were more likely buried with these
marine ammonite shells as a result of sediments (primarily muds) being wash rapidly by ocean waters onto this continental
land, consistent with what would be expected to have happened during the Flood.
Summary and Conclusions
The lower Cretaceous Chickabally Member mudstones of the Budden Canyon Formation have been extensively studied for
more than 140 years, and the ammonite fossils in them are significant as index fossils for biostratigraphy. Four samples of
ammonites and wood buried and fossilized together in these mudstones were collected in the Cottonwood District near
Redding, northern California. Fragments from two of the fossilized ammonite shells and four of the fossilized pieces of wood
were analyzed by the IsoTrace Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Toronto, Canada. At this laboratory these
fragments were prepared for radiocarbon analyses with the standard pre-treatment procedure developed to guarantee the
elimination of any contamination. The wood residues were combusted to graphite, while the carbonate shells were
hydrolyzed to carbon dioxide and then reduced to graphite. The resultant graphite was then analyzed for radiocarbon using
a state-of-the-art accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) system.The radiocarbon results ranged from 0.2760.005 to
1.2240.012 pMC or apparent ages of 36,400350 to 48,710930 years for the fossil ammonite shells, and from
0.5930.007 to 1.8960.013 pMC or apparent ages of 32,780230 to 42,390510 years for the fossilized wood. Yet the
biostratigraphic ages of these fossils, based on the ammonites as index fossils, is Aptian (lower Cretaceous), and the
absolute geochronologic age 112120 million years. Therefore, if these fossils were truly that old, then there should have
been absolutely no measurable 14C detected in them.However, the 14C measured in these fossils is well above the detection
limit of the AMS instrument. Therefore the usual response to such a glaring and enigmatic discrepancy in absolute ages is to
claim that the ammonite shells and wood were contaminated with modern carbon, either in the ground, or during sampling
and in the laboratory. Four such sources of potential contamination were examined. In the laboratory the severe pretreatment of the samples guarantees that any contamination from sampling and handling is totally eliminated. Then even if
there were some contamination, as claimed by some, during the combustion and due to instrument background, the
estimated 14C level involved would only be in the range 0.0050.069 pMC. This is a trivial amount of 14C that if conceded
would make no difference whatsoever to the very much higher radiocarbon levels measured in these ammonite shells and
wood fossils, particularly as the results reported by the IsoTrace Laboratory already have a laboratory background of 0.077
pMC subtracted from them.Furthermore, potential contamination of the fossils by ground or surface waters while they were
still entombed in the mudstones can be ruled out. Any such environmental contamination of the fossil wood would be
removed by the severe sample pre-treatment in the laboratory. On the other hand, environmental contamination of the
ammonite shells by replacement with modern carbonate 14C can be discounted, because the ammonite shells yielded
almost identical 14C levels and apparent ages as the wood buried and fossilized with them.Therefore, it was concluded that
the measured 14C is in situ radiocarbon intrinsic to the ammonites and wood when they were buried and fossilized, so that
they are very young, not 112120 million years old. Furthermore, because the earths stronger magnetic field in the recent
past reduced the atmospheric 14C production rate, and because the recent Flood removed so much carbon from the
biosphere and buried it, the measured apparent radiocarbon ages are still much higher than the true ages of the fossil
ammonites and wood. So their true ages are consistent with their burial during the Flood only, about 4,300 years ago, when
the ocean waters washed sediments and ammonites onto this continental land.
Acknowledgments
This project would not have been possible without the encouragement and support of Pastor Al Franklin and the
congregation of the Grace Baptist Church in Redding, CA. Pastor Franklin conceived the project and assisted with the field

work, sampling, and documentation, while the funding for my visit and all the radiocarbon analyses were provided by the
church congregation. Dr John Baumgardner is also acknowledged for his help with obtaining the radiocarbon analyses,
while Mark Armitage helped photograph some of the samples.
Radiocarbon in Diamonds Confirmed
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on November 7, 2007
Abstract
During the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) research project, some of the research effort was focused on
investigating radiocarbon (carbon-14) dating.
Keywords: radiocarbon, diamonds, RATE, dating methods, carbon-14, in situ, Flood, radioisotopes, age of the earth,
University of California
During the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) research project at the Institute for Creation Research, cosponsored by theCreation Research Society, some of the research effort was focused on investigating radiocarbon (carbon14) dating. This is one of theradioactive dating methods, but because carbon-14 decays relatively rapidly it only provides
ages in the range of tens of thousands of years. In fact, if every atom making up the earth was carbon-14, even after just 1
million years there would be absolutely no atoms of carbon-14 left, because they would have all decayed away, based on
todays measured half-life! Thats why radiocarbon dating isnt used to date rocks at millions of years.
The RATE radiocarbon research first focused on demonstrating that significant detectable levels of carbon-14 are present in
ancient coal beds.1,2 Ten samples from U.S. coal beds, conventionally dated at 40320 million years old, were found to
contain carbon-14 equivalent to ages of around 48,00050,000 years. The laboratory did repeat analyses and confirmed
that this carbon-14 in the coals was not due to any contamination either in situ in the samples or added to the samples in the
laboratory. Of course, these would not be the true ages of these coal beds, because these 48,00050,000 year ages are
calculated at the present-day level and production rate of radiocarbon. The fact that all these coal beds yield radiocarbon
ages in the same ballpark is consistent with them all having been formed at the same time in a recent catastrophic event.
This is, of course, consistent with masses of pre-Flood vegetation being swept away and buried on a huge scale globally
during the cataclysmic Flood.Buoyed by this success, the RATE radiocarbon research next checked for carbon-14 in
diamonds. Diamonds are the hardest known natural substance and resist physical abrasion. Also, the chemical bonding of
the carbon in diamonds makes them highly resistant to chemical corrosion and weathering. Diamonds also repel and
exclude water from adhering to their surfaces, which would eliminate any possibility of the carbon in the diamonds becoming
contaminated. Sure enough, the diamonds submitted for radiocarbon analyses did contain detectable, significant levels of
carbon-14, equivalent to an age of around 55,000 years. Again, the laboratory did repeat analyses and discounted any
possibility that this carbon-14 was due to contamination, in situ to the diamonds or added in the laboratory. At 12 billion
years old, these diamonds, which are formed deep inside the earth, are regarded as being related to the earths early
history. Therefore, it was concluded that carbon-14 in these diamonds was consistent with a young age for the earth itself.
Confirmation that there is in situ carbon-14 in diamonds has now been reported in the conventional literature.3 R.E. Taylor of
the Department of Anthropology at the University of CaliforniaRiverside and of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the
University of CaliforniaLos Angeles teamed with J. Southon at the Keck Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory of the
Department of Earth System Science at the University of CaliforniaIrvine to analyze nine natural diamonds from Brazil. All
nine diamonds are conventionally regarded as being at least of early Paleozoic age, that is, at least several hundred million
years old. So, if they really are that old they should not have any intrinsic carbon-14 in them. Eight of the diamonds yielded
radiocarbon ages of 64,900 years to 80,000 years. The ninth diamond was cut into six equal fragments, which were each
analyzed. They yield essentially identical radiocarbon ages ranging from 69,400 years to 70,600 years. This suggests the
carbon-14 was evenly distributed through this diamond, which is consistent with it being intrinsic carbon-14, and not
contamination. Interestingly, samples of Ceylon graphite from Precambrian metamorphic rock (conventionally around 1
billion years old) were analyzed at the same time and yielded radiocarbon ages of from 58,400 years to 70,100 years.
These results, from a different radiocarbon laboratory to that used by the RATE group, confirm that there is intrinsic carbon14 in natural diamonds. Therefore, they cannot be hundreds of millions or billions of years old, as there is no other current
credible explanation for the presence of this carbon-14. Less carbon-14 was found in the diamonds in this study reported in
the conventional literature. That was because the diamonds were mounted directly in the beam within the analytical
instrument, whereas in the RATE study the diamonds were combusted to convert the carbon to carbon dioxide, which was
then converted to graphite that was analyzed in the instrument. That process may have introduced some more carbon-14 to
the analyses.The University of California scientists, of course, did not conclude that the diamonds they analyzed are
evidence that the earth is young. Instead, they interpreted these 64,90080,000 year age to represent one component of
machine background in the analytical instrument. Yet this begs the question as to why then did the Precambrian graphite
contain on average more carbon-14 to yield younger ages than the diamonds? And why did the diamonds have such
different carbon-14 contents to yield different apparent radiocarbon ages? Because the same instrument was used to
analyze all the diamonds and the graphite, the results should surely have all been affected by the same machine
background. Rather, these results may further confirm the conclusions of the RATE radiocarbon project that natural
diamonds, which are related to the earths early history, show evidence of being only thousands of years old and provide
noteworthy support that the earth is young.

Geological Conflict
Young Radiocarbon Date for Ancient Fossil Wood Challenges
Fossil Dating
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on March 1, 2000
Originally published in Creation 22, no 2 (March 2000): 44-47.
Many do not realise that index fossils are still crucial to the millions-ofyears geological dating, in spite of the advent of radioactive 'dating'
techniques.
For most people, the discovery of fossilised wood in a quarry would
not be newsworthy. However, some pieces recently found embedded

in limestone alongside some well-known index fossils (see aside below) for the Jurassic period (supposedly 142205.7
million years ago) have proved highly significant.It is not generally realised that index fossils are still crucial to the millionsof-years geological dating, in spite of the advent of radioactive dating techniques. Not all locations have rocks suitable for
radioactive dating, but in any case, if a radioactive date disagrees with a fossil date then it is the latter which usually has
precedence.
Figure 1. Locality map showing the outcrop pattern of the Marlstone Rock Bed across southern and central England (ref. 1,
main article).
Finding this fossil wood in Jurassic limestone suggested the possibility of testing for the presence of radiocarbon ( 14C). Most
geologists, however, would not bother with such tests because they wouldnt expect any 14C to still exist. With a half-life of
only 5,570 years, no 14C should be detectable after about 50,000 years, let alone millions of years, even with the most
sensitive equipment. So this fossilised wood from the Marlstone Rock Bed of Jurassic age had potential for testing the
validity of the fossil dating technique underpinning modern geology.
The Marlstone Rock Bed
The Marlstone Rock Bed is a distinctive limestone unit that outcrops from Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast of southern
England, north-eastwards to just west of Hull near the North Sea coast (Figure 1).1 In many places, the top 530 cm (212
inches) or more of this bed has been weathered and altered, the original green iron minerals2 being oxidized to limonite
(hydrous iron oxides), and also in a few areas the sand content is higher. In the past, the outcrop has been quarried
frequently for iron ore or building stone.Evolutionary geologists consider that the top three metres (10 feet) of the Marlstone
Rock Bed represent the whole of the Tenuicostatum Zone, the basal zone of the Toarcian Stage,3 the last stage of the Early
Jurassic. This dating is based on the presence of the ammonite index fossil Dactylioceras tenuicostatum.4Thus the bed is
said to be about 189 million years old according to the geological time-scale.5Amongst the remaining quarries still working
the top of the Marlstone Rock Bed are the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill near the village of Ratley, on the north-western
edge of the Edge Hill plateau, some 10 km (6 miles) north-west of the town of Banbury (Figures 2 and 3). Building stone,
known as Hornton Stone, has been quarried there since medieval times.6,7
A dating test at Hornton Quarries
During two visits to the Hornton Quarries, it was established that fossil wood occurs alongside ammonite and belemnite
index fossils (see aside below) in the Hornton Stone, the oxidized silty top of the Marlstone Rock Bed. The ammonite
recovered in the quarries is Dactylioceras semicelatum (Figure 4), abundant in a subzone of the Tenuicostatum Zone.1
Fossil wood was actually found sitting on top of a fossilised belemnite (Figure 5), probably belonging to the genus
Acrocoelites, a Toarcian Stage index fossil in north-west Europe.8 Many such belemnite fossils had been found during
quarrying operations (Figure 6). Together these index fossils have, in evolutionary reckoning, established the rock containing
them as being Early Jurassic and about 189 million years old.9,10 Logically, the fossil wood must be the same age.
Figure 2. Locality map showing the distribution of the
Marlstone Rock Bed west of Banbury, and the Hornton
Quarries at Edge Hill near the village of Ratley.
Three samples of fossil wood were collected from the
south wall of Hornton Quarries, one from immediately
adjacent to the belemnite fossil (Figure 5) during the
first visit, and two from locations nearby during the
second visit. All the fossil wood samples were from
short broken lengths of what were probably branches of
trees fossilised in situ. The woody internal structure was
clearly evident, thus the samples were not the remains
of roots that had grown into this weathered rock from
trees on the present land surface. When sampled, the
fossil wood readily splintered, diagnostic of it still being
woody in spite of its impregnation with iron minerals
during fossilisation.Pieces of all three samples were
sent for radiocarbon (14C) analyses to Geochron
Laboratories in Cambridge, Boston (USA), while as a
cross-check, a piece of the first sample was also sent to
the Antares Mass Spectrometry Laboratory at the
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Lucas Heights near Sydney (Australia). Both
laboratories are reputable and internationally recognised, the former a commercial laboratory and the latter a major research
laboratory.The staff at these laboratories were not told exactly where the samples came from, or their supposed evolutionary
age, to ensure that there would be no resultant bias.Both laboratories used the more sensitive accelerator mass
spectrometry (AMS) technique for radiocarbon analyses, recognised as producing reliable results even on samples with
minute quantities of carbon.

Figure 3(a) General view of the south wall of the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill near Ratley,
north-west of Banbury.
(b) Closer view of the quarry face of the south wall showing the oxidized limestone of the
top of the Marlstone Rock Bed which is quarried as Hornton Brown building stone.
The results
The radiocarbon (14C) results are listed in Table 1. Obviously, there was detectable
radiocarbon in all the fossil wood samples, the calculated 14C ages ranging from 20,700
1,200 to 28,820 350 years BP (Before Present).
For sample UK-HB-1, collected from on top of the belemnite index fossil (Figure 5), the
results from the two laboratories are reasonably close to one another within the error

margins, and when averaged yield a 14C age almost identical (within the error margins) to the 22,730 170 years BP of
sample UK-HB-2.
Alternatively, if all four results on the three samples are averaged, the 14C age is almost identical (within the error margins)
to the Geochron result for UK-HB-1 of 24,005 600 years BP. This suggests that a reasonable estimate for the 14C age of
this fossil wood would be 23,00023,500 years BP.
Quite obviously this radiocarbon age is drastically short of the age of 189 million years for the index fossils found with the
fossil wood, and thus for the host rock.
Of course, uniformitarian geologists would not even test this fossil wood for radiocarbon. They dont expect any to be in it,
since they would regard it as about 189 million years old due to the age of the index fossils. No detectable 14C would
remain in wood older than about 50,000 years. Undoubtedly, they would thus suggest that the radiocarbon, which has been
unequivocally demonstrated to be in this fossil wood, is due somehow to contamination. Such a criticism is totally unjustified
(see aside two).
Conclusions
The fossil wood in the top three metres of the Marlstone Rock Bed near Banbury, England, has been 14C dated at 23,000
23,500 years BP. However, based on evolutionary and uniformitarian assumptions, the ammonite and belemnite index
fossils in this rock date it at about 189 million years. Obviously, both dates cant be right!
Furthermore, it is somewhat enigmatic that broken pieces of wood from land plants were buried and fossilised in a limestone
alongside marine ammonite and belemnite fossils. Uniformitarians consider limestone to have been slowly deposited over
countless thousands of years on a shallow ocean floor where wood from trees is not usually found.

Figure 4. The ammonite index fossil Dactylioceras semicelatum recovered from the top section of the Marlstone Rock Bed in
the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill.

Figure 5. Fossil wood in the top section of the Marlstone Rock Bed exposed in the south wall of the Hornton Quarries at
Edge Hill. The pen is not only for scale, but points to an end-on circular profile of a belemnite fossil sitting directly
underneath the fossil wood (sampled as UK-HB-1).
However, the radiocarbon dating of the fossil wood has emphatically demonstrated the complete failure of the evolutionary
and uniformitarian assumptions underpinning geological dating.
A far superior explanation for this limestone and the mixture of terrestrial wood and marine shellfish fossils it contains is
extremely rapid burial in a turbulent watery catastrophe that affected both the land and ocean floor, such as the recent global
Flood.

Figure 6. Four belemnite fossils, probably Acrocoelites, recovered from the top section of the Marlstone Rock Bed in the
Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill (pen for scale). These cylindrical skeletal shells of the belemnites which taper to apices are
called rostrums (ref. 2, of Index fossils and geologic dating, aside below).The 23,00023,500 year BP 14C date for this fossil
wood is not inconsistent with it being buried about 4,500 years ago during the Flood, the original plants having grown before
the Flood.A stronger magnetic field before, and during, the Flood would have shielded the earth more effectively from
incoming cosmic rays,11 so there would have been much less radiocarbon in the atmosphere then, and thus much less in
the vegetation. Since the laboratories calculated the 14C ages assuming that the level of atmospheric radiocarbon in the
past has been roughly the same as the level in 1950, the resultant radiocarbon ages are much greater than the true
age.12,13Thus, correctly understood, this fossil wood and its 14C analyses cast grave doubts upon the index fossil dating
method and its uniformitarian and evolutionary presuppositions.
On the other hand, these results are totally consistent with the details of the recent global Flood,.
Index fossils and geologic dating
To evolutionary geologists, fossils are still crucial for dating strata, but not all fossils are equally useful. Those fossils that
seem to work well for identifying and dating rock strata are called index fossils.To qualify as an index fossil, a particular
fossil species must be found buried in rock layers over a very wide geographical area, preferably on several continents. On
the other hand, the same fossil species must have a narrow vertical distribution, that is, only be buried in a few rock layers.
The evolutionist interprets this as meaning that the species lived and died over a relatively short time (perhaps a few million
years). Therefore, the rock layers containing these fossils supposedly only represent that relatively short period of time, and
thus a date can be assigned accordingly on every continent to the rock layers where these fossils are found. The date
relative to other index fossils and rock layers is, of course, determined by the species position in the evolutionary tree of
life.14Among well-known index fossils are ammonites (extinct, coiled-shell cephalopods, marine molluscs similar to todays

Nautilus), and the belemnites (extinct, straight-shell cephalopods).15 Both are fossils of squid-like creatures, common to
abundant in so-called Mesozoic rocks. They are very important index fossils for dating and correlation of rock layers, for
example, across Europe, particularly for the so-called Cretaceous and Jurassic periods of the geological timescale,16,17 which are claimed to span 65142 and 142205.7 million years ago respectively.18 However, these index fossils
have not been dated directly by radioactive techniques.
Could the radiocarbon be due to contamination?
Four reasons why not
Pieces of the same sample were sent to the two laboratories and they both independently obtained similar results.
Furthermore, three separate samples were sent to the same laboratory in two batches and again similar results were
obtained. This rules out contamination.
The radiocarbon dates depend on the amounts of radiocarbon, originally in the living plants, now left in the fossil wood
samples. In these samples, the 14C left was between about 2.5% and 7.5% of the amount in living plants today. Any
unavoidable contamination (e.g., dust, fungal spores) would be minuscule and would amount to at most 0.2%, which would
have a negligible effect on these radiocarbon dates.19
The last column in Table 1 lists the d13CPDB results,20 which are consistent with the analysed carbon in the fossil wood
representing organic carbon from the wood of land plants.21
Such a claim would, by implication, cast a slur on the Ph.D. scientific staff of two radiocarbon laboratories, who, as qualified
routine practitioners, understand the potential for contamination and how to avoid it in sample processing.
Return to text.
Table 1.
14

C 'AGE' (YEARS BP)

d13CPDB

SAMPLE LAB

LAB CODE

Geochron
UK-HB-1 ANSTO

GX-21666-AMSOZC201

24,005

20,700 1,200

UK-HB-2 Geochron

GX-21611-AMS

22,730 170

-24.0

UK-HB-3 Geochron

GX-21612-AMS

28,820 350

-25.3

600-22.9
-16.6

14

Radiocarbon ( C) analytical results for fossil wood samples, Marlstone Rock Bed, Hornton Quarries, England.
Stumping Old-Age Dogma
Radiocarbon in an ancient fossil tree stump casts doubt on traditional rock/fossil dating
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on September 1, 1998
Originally published in Creation 20, no 4 (September 1998): 48-51.
When it comes to the dating of sedimentary rocks, the fossils in them are of paramount importance.
Shop Now
In the words of the late Derek Ager, fossils have been and still are the best and most accurate method of dating and
correlating the rocks in which they occur 1
Why is this so?
Dating rocks and fossils
Figure 1. Click here for a larger image. Location map for the Newvale No. 2 Coal Mine, north of
Sydney on the east coast of Australia.
Uniformitarian geologists and evolutionary paleontologists believe that as countless creatures lived and
died over millions of years of Earth history, some were buried in slowly accumulating sediments and
then fossilised. Accumulated genetic changes over millions of years supposedly resulted in
the evolution of new species, genera and families. So when fossils are found in sedimentary rock
layers, they are identified within the context of where they fit in the evolutionary tree of life, and a
millions-of-years age is therefore assigned to the fossil and the rock accordingly.2
In recent years a variety of techniques have been developed to date some rocks and minerals using
the decay of radioactive elements in them. These methods include potassium-argon, rubidiumstrontium, uranium-thorium-lead and samarium-neodymium dating. They are used, for example, on
layers of volcanic rocks above and below fossil-bearing sedimentary rock layers. Thus these methods, though not directly
dating the fossils, have often confirmed the millions of years ages assigned to the rocks and fossils by their interpretation
within the uniformitarian and evolutionary framework.
The only radioactive dating method that could be directly applied to many fossils is radiocarbon or carbon-14 ( 14C) dating.
However, because radiocarbon decays relatively rapidly, it is only useful in practice up to about 50,000 years. 3 Thus most
fossils, being regarded as millions of years old, are never tested for radiocarbon, because they are not supposed to have
any left.
A fossilised tree stump
Figure 2. General view of the fossilised tree stump (scale bar in cm). The shiny coalified
bark around the perimeter can be clearly seen.
Figure 3. Click here for a larger image. The local geological column for the upper
portion of the Newcastle Coal Measures showing where the Great Northern coal seam
occurs.
Among the sedimentary rock layers, some of the most significant are coal beds. These
can be tens of metres thick and stretch for many hundreds of square kilometres. They
consist of the broken remainsleaves, twigs, bark, logs, etc.of countless millions of
trees of many varieties. Usually the process of fossilising this vegetation debris
obliterates most of the recognisable features of these individual components, as the
whole buried mass is transformed into coal.However, sometimes components can be
identifiedfor example, fossilised tree stumps sitting on top of coal beds. Such a
fossilised tree stump was found by miners in the Newvale No. 2 (underground) Coal
Mine north of Sydney, Australia (Figure 1). A portion of it was saved by one of the
miners (Figure 2).One of the major coal beds exploited in the Newvale No. 2 Coal

Mine is the Great Northern Seam, near the top of the sequence of rock units known collectively as the Newcastle Coal
Measures (Figure 3) within the Sydney Basin. Based on the plant fossils found in them, these coal beds (including the
associated mudstone in which the stump was found) have been designated Upper Permian, which uniformitarian geologists
would therefore assign to a period of Earths history around 250 million years ago.4,5
Figure 4 shows the relative position of the fossilised tree stump when it was found, surrounded by a 150 mm (almost 6
inches) thick layer of mudstone sitting directly on top of the coal (Great Northern Seam). That portion of the fossilised tree
stump recovered has a diameter of 110 mm (almost 4 inches) and stands 100 mm (about 4 inches) high (Figure 2 and
Figure 5). A shiny thin skin encompasses the outer perimeter (Figure 2, Figure 5 and Figure 6) and represents the original
tree bark, which upon burial was coalified. In contrast, the former wood has been silicified (literally turned to stone by
impregnation with silica), though it is dull black from still being carbon-rich (Figure 6).
Sample Type

Lab Code

14

coalified bark

GX-21867

33,000 400

-27.2

silicified wood

GX-22613

>48,000

-26.7

C Age (years BP)

13CPDB

Table 1. Radiocarbon (14C) analyses of samples from the fossilised tree stump
Radiocarbon (14C) analyses
Figure 4. Click here for a larger image. Diagram to illustrate the relative position of the fossilised tree
stump sitting on top of the Great Northern coal seam (not drawn to scale).
Small pieces of the coalified bark and the silicified wood immediately underneath it were sent for
radiocarbon (14C) analyses to Geochron Laboratories in Cambridge, Boston (USA), a reputable,
internationally-recognized commercial laboratory. The laboratory staff were not told exactly where the
samples came from, or their supposed evolutionary age, to ensure that there would be no resultant
bias. This laboratory uses the more sensitive accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) technique for
radiocarbon analysis, now recognized as producing the most reliable results, even on minute quantities
of carbon in samples.The radiocarbon results are listed in Table 1. There was detectable radiocarbon in
the coalified bark, yielding a supposed 14C age of 33,700 400 years BP (before present). On the
other hand, the small quantity of carbon extracted from the silicified wood sample was insufficient to
yield a finite 14C age, so the result could only be reported as >48,800 years BP, beyond the detection limits. Of course, the
wood inside a tree stump would not be >15,100 years older than the bark enclosing it. So the 14C age of the bark places an
age limit on the immediately underlying silicified wood.
Of course, if the wood really were 250 million years old as is supposed, one should not be able to obtain a finite age from
radiocarbonall detectable 14C should have decayed away in a fraction of that alleged time.
Objections
Figure 5. Another view of the fossilised tree stump (scale bar in cm). The shiny
coalified bark can again be clearly seen, as can the dull silicified wood within the
stump.The most obvious objection that might be raised against these radiocarbon
results by sceptics uncomfortable with the implications is that the minute quantity of
radiocarbon detected in this fossilised tree stump is due to contamination. 6 Such a
criticism is unjustified, and by implication casts a slur on the radiocarbon laboratorys
Ph.D. scientific staff. As qualified routine practitioners, they understand the problem
with contamination, and how to avoid it in sample preparation. Yet they reported these
analyses as genuine in situ radiocarbon (14C). Furthermore, the last column of Table 1
lists the d13CPDB results, which are consistent with the analysed carbon in the
fossilised tree stump representing organic carbon from wood, not from
contamination. 7Another objection is that acceptance of these results as genuine 14C
ages is based on bias, incompetence or ignorance.8 However, those who would
make such accusations in reality reject these results primarily because such 14C
ages cannot possibly be obtained from a fossilised tree stump sitting in a layer of
250 million years old Upper Permian mudstone. Of course, such pronouncements
are based solely on a rock-and-fossil dating scheme derived from evolutionary and
uniformitarian beliefs, not from some independent, objective scientific standard.
Conclusions
Figure 6. A close-up of the fossilised tree stump (scale bar in cm). Not only can the
shiny coalified bark be seen, but also the growth rings in the dull silicified interior wood.
Within the Creation/Flood framework of Earth history, the Flood occurred about 4,500
years ago. Therefore, even though this tree stump must have grown before the Flood (to
be then buried and fossilised in sediments laid down by the Flood) there cannot have
been more than about 5,000 years at most since it died.
However, a 33,700 400 years BP radiocarbon age for this fossilised tree stump is
neither inconsistent nor unexpected. A stronger magnetic field before, and during, the
Flood would have shielded the Earth more strongly from incoming cosmic rays,9 so there
would have been much less radiocarbon in the atmosphere then, and thus much less in
the vegetation. Since the laboratory calculated the 14C age based on the assumption that
the level of atmospheric radiocarbon in the past has been roughly the same as the level in
1950, the resultant radiocarbon age is much greater than the true age.10
On the other hand, a 33,700 400 years BP radiocarbon age emphatically conflicts with,
and casts doubt upon, the evolutionary fossil and uniformitarian rock age of 250 million
years for this fossilised tree stump. Clearly, the radiocarbon dating method, although
demonstrating that the specimen cannot be millions of years old, has not provided its true
age.11 However, correctly understood, this radiocarbon analysis is totally consistent with
the account of a young Earth and a recent global Flood.

***
Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Lutetium-176 ( 176Lu)
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on December 3, 2014
Abstract
Over the last 75 years numerous determinations have been made of the 176Lu half-life and decay constant. However, even
though the measurement technology has improved, the determinations over the last 30 years have resulted in unexplained
and unresolved discrepancies. Direct physical counting experiments have resulted in two separate groupings of results with
different 176Lu mean half-life values. Early determinations based on comparisons of ages of meteorites gave different 176Lu
half-life and decay constant values than determinations based on comparisons of ages of terrestrial minerals and rocks. But
more recent determinations using meteorites have yielded 176Lu half-life and decay constant values that agree with both
determinations based on comparisons of ages of terrestrial minerals and rocks, and with one of the groupings of
determinations by direct physical counting experiments. Thus the 176Lu half-life and decay constant values of 37.12 Byr and
1.867 10-11 per year respectively have now been generally adopted for standard use by the geological community, based
particularly on the determinations using comparisons of ages of terrestrial minerals and rocks. The more recent meteorite
determinations used chondrite meteorites rather than the eucrite meteorites used for the earlier determinations, because it
was realized the latter have suffered thermal and shock metamorphism that resulted in significant disturbance of the Lu-Hf
systematics among mineral phases due to open geochemical system behavior, such as leakage of 176Hf. Yet the
discrepancies in the determinations by the direct physical counting experiments remain unexplained and unresolved.
Furthermore, all the determinations using age comparisons on terrestrial minerals and rocks and most of the more recent
determinations using age comparisons on chondrite meteorites have been calibrated against the U-Pb method, but even
this gold standard has unresolved uncertainties due to variations measured in terrestrial rocks and minerals and
meteorites of the 238U/235U ratio which is so critical to the method. So the U-Pb method should not be used as a standard to
determine other decay constants. This only serves to highlight that if the Lu-Hf dating method has been calibrated against
the U-Pb gold standard with its own uncertainties, then it cannot be absolute, and therefore it cannot be used to reject the
young-earth creationist timescale. Indeed, current radioisotope dating methodologies are at best hypotheses based on
extrapolating current measurements and observations back into an assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Shop Now
Keywords: radioisotope dating, decay constant, half-life, lutetium-176,176Lu, decay, direct physical counting, -rays,
geological age comparisons, terrestrial minerals and rocks, meteorites, eucrites, chondrites, discrepancies, U-Pb gold
standard, 238U/235U ratio.
Introduction
Radioisotope dating of rocks and meteorites is perhaps the most potent claimed proof for the supposed old age of the earth
and the solar system. The absolute ages provided by the radioisotope dating methods provide an apparent aura of certainty
to the claimed millions and billions of years for formation of the earths rocks.However, accurate radioisotopic age
determinations require that the decay constants of the respective parent radionuclides be accurately known. Ideally, the
uncertainty of the decay constants should be negligible compared to, or at least be commensurate with, the analytical
uncertainties of the mass spectrometer measurements entering the radioisotope age calculations (Begemann et al. 2001).
Clearly, based on the ongoing discussion in the conventional literature this is not the case at present. The stunning
improvements in the performance of mass spectrometers during the past four or so decades, starting with the landmark
paper by Wasserburg et al. (1969), have not been accompanied by any comparable improvement in the accuracy of the
decay constants (Begemann et al. 2001; Steiger and Jger 1977), in spite of ongoing attempts (Miller 2012). The
uncertainties associated with direct half-life determinations are, in most cases, still at the percent level at best, which is still
significantly better than any radioisotope method for determining the ages of rock formations. The recognition of an urgent
need to improve the situation is not new (for example, Min et al. 2000; Renne, Karner, and Ludwig 1998). It continues to be
mentioned, at one time or another, by every group active in geo- or cosmochronology (Schmitz 2012).From a creationist
perspective, the 19972005 RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project successfully made progress in
documenting some of the pitfalls in the radioisotope dating methods, and especially in demonstrating that radioisotope
decay rates may not have always been constant at todays measured rates (Vardiman, Snelling, and Chaffin 2000, 2005).
Yet much research effort remains to be done to make further in-roads into not only uncovering the flaws intrinsic to these
long-age dating methods, but towards a thorough understanding of radioisotopes and their decay during the earths history
within a creationist framework.One crucial area the RATE project did not touch on was this issue of how accurate and
reliable are the determinations of the radioisotope decay rates (decay constants and half-lives), which are so crucial for
calibrating these dating clocks. The reliability of the other two assumptions these absolute dating methods rely on, that is,
the starting conditions and no contamination of closed systems, are unprovable. Yet these can be circumvented somewhat
via the isochron technique, because it is independent of the starting conditions and is sensitive to revealing any
contamination. This is especially the case when mineral isochrons are used. Data points that do not fit on the isochron are
simply ignored because their values are regarded as due to contamination. That this is common practice is illustrated with
numerous examples from the relevant literature by Faure and Mensing (2005) and Dickin (2005). On the other hand, it could
be argued that this discarding of data points which do not fit the isochron is somewhat arbitrary and therefore is not good
science, because it is merely assumed aberrant values are due to contamination rather than that being proven to be so.
In order to rectify this deficiency, Snelling (2014) documented the methodology behind and history of determining the decay
constant and half-life of the parent radioisotope 87Rb used as the basis for the Rb-Sr long-age dating method. He showed
that there is still some uncertainty in what the values for these measures of the 87Rb decay rate should be, and that the
determined values differ when Rb-Sr ages are calibrated against the U-Pb ages of either the same terrestrial minerals and
rocks or the same meteorites and lunar rocks. Ironically it is the slow decay rates of isotopes such as 87Rb used for deep
time dating that makes precise measurements of their decay rates so difficult. Thus it could be argued that direct
measurements of their decay rates should be the only acceptable experimental evidence, especially because
measurements which are calibrated against other radioisotope systems are already biased by the currently accepted
methodology employed by the secular community in their rock dating methods. We thus need to further explore just how
accurate these determinations are for other parent radioisotopes, whether there really is consensus on standard values for
their half-lives and decay constants, and just how independent and objective their standard values are from one another
between the different long-age dating methods. Of course, it is to be expected that every long-lived radioactive isotope is
likely to show similar variation and uncertainty in half-life determinations because these are difficult measurements to make.
However, even small variations and uncertainties in the half-life values result in large variations and uncertainties in the
calculated ages for rocks, and the question remains as to whether the half-life values for each long-lived parent radioisotope

are independently determined. Here we continue these investigations by exploring the determinations of the lutetium-176
(176Lu) decay rate, which is the basis for the Lu-Hf method.
Lutetium and Lutetium-176 Decay
With an atomic number of 71, lutetium is therefore element 71, which places it in the sixth period of the periodic table. It is
the last of the lanthanide series and thus is the heaviest of the rare earth elements (REEs). It has two naturally occurring
isotopes whose abundances are 97.4% 175Lu and 2.6% 176Lu, so that the 175Lu/176Lu ratio is 37.46 (Dickin 2005). There has
been some disagreement over this ratio, but the value of 37.701 0.028 experimentally determined by Patchett and
Tatsumoto (1980b) has been used exclusively in all subsequent research. However,the differences in the values obtained
between that and the few other determinations remain unexplained.The geochemical properties of Lu are similar to those of
the REE Sm (samarium). Lutetium has a valence of 3+ and an ionic radius of 0.93 , the latter being similar to that of
Ca2+ at 0.99 . This causes Lu3+ to be captured by crystals in place of Ca2+. Lutetium is thus present and widely dispersed in
all types of rocks, but concentrations rarely exceed 0.5 ppm and so it does not form its own minerals in most geological
environments. The average concentrations of Lu in ordinary rock-forming silicate minerals are generally low, so the average
Lu concentrations in igneous rocks increase very little with the increasing degree of differentiation from basalt to granite
(Faure and Mensing 2005). The most important mineral carriers of Lu in the common rock types are apatite, garnet, and
biotite, plus the rarer alkali-rich pyroxene aegirine and amphibole arfvedsonite. Elevated Lu concentrations are present in Zrbearing minerals such as zircon, baddeleyite and eudialyte, but the highest Lu concentrations are found in rare-earth oxides
such as euxenite, carbonates such as bastnaesite, phosphates such as xenotime and monazite, and silicates such as
gadolinite and allanite. All such rare-earth minerals are relatively rare and occur primarily in complex pegmatites, alkali-rich
intrusives, and carbonatites. Thus these rare-earth minerals are not important for dating by the Lu-Hf method, but their
presence as accessory minerals makes their host rocks suitable for such dating.Lutetium-176 is radioactive and displays
branched isobaric decay by beta () emission to stable 176Hf and by electron capture to stable 176Yb. The frequency of
electron captures is of the order of 3% or less (Dixon, McNair, and Curran 1954; Glover and Watt 1957), so in view of the
long half-life of 176Lu and the current estimate of the frequency at only 0.095% (http://www. nucleonica.net/unc.aspx) the
slow decay to 176Yb can be usually ignored. Thus current estimates for the decay constant of 176Lu are solely based on its decay to 176Hf, ignoring any potential electron capture. 176Hf is left in an excited state after the -emission, and decays to the
ground state by -emission. The relevant decay scheme is therefore depicted as:
176
Lu 176Hf + - + + Q
where - is a -particle, is an anti-neutrino, and Q is the decay energy.
The first Lu-Hf geochronological measurement was made by Herr et al. (1958), who attempted to determine the 176Lu halflife by analyzing the isotopic composition of Hf in the heavy-REE-rich mineral gadolinite. Boudin and Deutsch (1970) were
the first to determine the 176Lu half-life by dating Lu-bearing minerals of known age, while Owen and Faure (1974)
attempted to use the method to date common rocks and minerals, but had trouble with the isotopic analysis of Hf due to the
difficulties of its chemical separation and its poor ionization efficiency during thermal-ionisation mass spectrometry (TIMS).
However, these problems were finally overcome by Patchett and Tatsumoto (1980a) with a modified analytical technique, so
after this breakthrough the Lu-Hf method became useful in the dating of terrestrial rocks and minerals, and of meteorites.
There are two parameters by which the decay rate is measured
and expressed, namely, the decay constant () and the half-life
(t). The decay constant can be defined as the probability per unit
time of a particular nucleus decaying, whereas the half-life is the
time it takes for half of a given number of the parent radionuclide
atoms to decay. The two quantities can be almost used
interchangeably, because they are related by the equation:t = ln 2 / = 0.693 /
Thus here we will simply focus on the determinations of the 176Lu
half-life.
Determination Methods
Two approaches have so far been followed to determine the decay half-life of the long-lived radioactive 176Lu.
Direct counting
Except for the very first attempts, direct determinations of the halflife of 176Lu have been by - and --coincidence counting.
Fig. 1. The
decay
scheme
of 176Lu as
initially
McNair, and
ground
state.In the
activity
material
McNair, and
Flynn, and
radioactive
Avogadros
same time

proposed (after Arnold and Sugihara 1953; Dixon,


Curran 1954). In this figure there is a 10 next to the
state of 176Lu, but this is a spin 7, negative parity
--coincidence counting technique, the beta ()
of 176Lu was counted in a suitable solid Lu2O3 source
using a proportional tube spectrometer/counter (Dixon,
Curran 1954; Donhoffer 1964; McNair 1961; Prodi,
Glendenin 1969), and divided by the total number of
atoms in the known quantity of Lu, based on
number and the isotopic abundance of 176Lu. At the
a low-level NaI (sodium iodide) scintillation
spectrometer/counter doped with Tl was used to detect
the
-ray
spectrum and to measure the energy peaks of the rays
produced by the energy transitions of the
daughter 176Hf as it decays from its excited state to its
ground
state (Arnold 1954; Brinkman, Aten, and Veenboer 1965; Glover and Watt 1957) (fig. 1). Thus the detection of the number of
daughter 176Hf atoms produced can be compared with the number of -particles counted from the parent 176Lu decay. Among
the difficulties of this approach, and with just -particle counting, are problems with detector efficiencies and geometry
factors, the self-shielding or self-absorption of the finite-thickness solid samples, the stopping power of the crystal source

and the fraction of pulses appearing in the photo peak (typically included in the detection efficiency for scintillation and
solid state detection systems). Furthermore, the escape of I (iodine) K electron shell x-rays is an important factor in the size
of the lowest -ray energy peak, which would only be a secondary check against the two primary -rays, that is, the 201 and
306.9 keV -rays, for determining the amount of 176Lu present (Arnold 1954; Begemann et al. 2001; Brinkman, Aten, and
Veenboer 1965; Dixon, McNair, and Curran 1954; Flammersfeld and Mattauch 1943).In the --coincidence counting
technique, one or more Ge detectors or a -ray spectrometer is used to simultaneously measure the -ray energy peaks
corresponding to those produced by the cascading energy states of the daughter 176Hf atom (fig. 2). Since each
daughter 176Hf atom produced by -decay from each parent 176Lu atom cascades down through these energy levels to reach
its ground state, measuring each -ray energy peak should effectively count the same number of daughter 176Hf atoms
produced in the given time of the experiment, which only after correction for the number of decays which produce a given ray, namely the branching ratio for each , is equivalent to the 176Lu decay rate. Both Sguigna, Larabee, and Washington
(1982) and Grinyer et al. (2003) set out the mathematical principles by which the 176Lu half-life is calculated from the -ray
counts in each energy peak. In order to increase the counting rate, Sguigna, Larabee, and Washington (1982) used three
Ge-Ge detectors placed at 120 to each other around their Lu2O3 sample and shielded from each other to prevent scattered
coincidences, whereas Grinyer et al. (2003) used an 8 -ray spectrometer consisting of 20 HPGe -ray detectors. Because
of the better resolution of the solid state detectors, these determinations would tend to be trusted more than those
determinations made with the combination of proportional chamber/NaI (Tl doped) detectors (see below in the discussion).
Fig. 2.The decay scheme of 176Lu as currently proposed (after Firestone and Shirley 1996; Grinyer et al. 2003).Gehrke,
Casey, and Murray (1990), Dalmasso, Barci-Funel, and Ardisson (1992), and Nir-El and Lavi (1998) have all highlighted the
difficulties in this approach, which has produced a wide range of half-life results. These difficulties include the calibration of
the detector efficiencies, variations in response of detectors to different parts of the source sample, and corrections for -ray
self-attenuation in the Lu solid source material, true-coincidence summing depending on the source samples distance from
the detector, and internal conversion. However, in their experiment Grinyer et al. (2003) arranged the twenty detectors in the
8 -ray spectrometer so each viewed approximately 13% of the solid angle, and so that angular correlation effects were
minimized. Furthermore, they introduced to their mathematical treatment of their data a lumped efficiency parameter, which
was the probability per decay that a -ray photo-peak event was detected, and included the effects of internal conversion,
solid angle coverage, photo-peak efficiency, and self-attenuation of the source sample. This lumped efficiency parameter
thus appears to have been a model that was applied to the real experimental data. Grinyer et al. (2003) also applied another
small correction factor to represent the probability that another -ray (or the x-ray following internal conversion) entered the
detector at the same time, thus destroying a photopeak event that should have been counted. These are generally termed
peak summing corrections.Nevertheless, judged from the fact that many of the direct counting experiments have yielded
results that are not compatible with one another within the stated uncertainties (see below), it would appear that not all the
measurement uncertainties are accounted for in whatever correction factors have been used, and therefore the stated
uncertainties are unrealistically small and typically are underestimated. It can therefore be argued that many of such
experiments are plagued by unrecognized systematic errors (Begemann et al. 2001). As the nature of these errors is
obscure, it is not straightforward to decide which of the, often mutually exclusive, results of such direct counting experiments
is closest to the true value. Furthermore, the presence of unknown systematic biases makes any averaging dangerous. It is
possible that reliable results of careful workers, listing realistic uncertainties, will not be given the Fig. 2. The decay scheme
of 176Lu as currently proposed (after Firestone and Shirley 1996; Grinyer et al. 2003). weights they deservethis aside from
the question of whether it makes sense to average numbers that by far do not agree within the stated uncertainties.
Geological comparisons of methods
The second approach to the determination of the 176Lu decay half-life has been to Lu-Hf date geological samples whose
ages have also been measured by other methods with presumably more reliable decay constants, particularly the U-Pb and
Pb-Pb methods (Dickin 2005; Faure and Mensing 2005). This approach has the disadvantage that it involves geological
uncertainties, such as whether all isotopic systems closed at the same time and remained closed. However, it is claimed to
still provide a useful check on the direct laboratory determinations. In this respect it is worth noting that Boudin and Deutsch
(1970) proposed a 176Lu half-life of 33 Byr on the basis of Lu-Hf dating of two minerals that had also been U-Pb dated,
essentially the same as the 176Lu half-life value of 32.7 Byr determined via direct counting at the same time by Prodi, Flynn,
and Glendenin (1969).
This approach entails multi-chronometric dating of terrestrial rocks or a mineral (or minerals) from them (for example,
Scherer, Mnker, and Mezger 2001; Sderlund et al 2004), or meteorites and a mineral from them (for example, Amelin
2005; Patchett et al. 2004), and cross-calibration of different radioisotopic age systems by adjusting the decay constant of
one system so as to force agreement with the age obtained via another dating system (Begemann et al. 2001). In essence,
because the half-life of 238U is regarded as the most accurately known of all relevant radionuclides, this usually amounts to
expressing ages in units of the half-life of 238U. This has increasingly become the preferred method for determining the halflife of 176Lu.
Results of the Lutetium-176 Decay Determinations
During the last 75 years numerous determinations of the 176Lu decay half-life have been made using these two methods.
The results are listed with details in Table 1. The year of the determination versus the value of the half-life is plotted in Fig. 3.
The data points plotted have been color-coded to differentiate the values as determined by the two approaches that have
been useddirect - and --coincidence counting, and geological comparisons with other radioisotope dating methods.
Table 1. Determinations of the 176Lu decay rate expressed in terms of the half-life using direct physical counting
experiments, and comparisons of radioisotope ages of terrestrial minerals and rocks, and meteorites.
Determination of the 176Lu Decay Rate
Date Half-Life (Byr) Error

Method

Source

1938 40

direct counting

Heyden and Wefelmeier 1938

1943 24

direct counting

Flammersfeld and Mattauch


1943
Arnold 1954

1954 21`.5

direct counting

1954 45.6

direct
(scintillation/spectrometer)

1957 21

direct counting (mass spectrometer)

Notes

countingDixon, McNair, and Curran


1954
Glover and Watt 1957

1958 21.7

3.5

direct counting

Herr et al. 1958

1961 36

direct counting (spectrometer)

McNair 1961

1964 21.8

0.6

direct counting (liquid scintillation)

Donhoffer 1964

1965 35

1.4

direct counting (liquid scintillation)

Brinkman, Aten, and Veenboer


1965

1965 35.4

0.5

direct counting (liquid scintillation)

Brinkman, Aten, and Veenboer


1965

1965 36.8

0.6

direct counting (liquid scintillation)

Brinkman, Aten, and Veenboer


1965

1967 50

direct counting (spectrometer)

Sakamoto 1967

1969 32.7

0.5

direct counting (liquid scintillation)

Prodi, Flynn, and Glendenin


1969

1970 33

comparison of Lu-Hf and U-Pb ages


of two minerals
Boudin and Deutsch 1970

1972 37.9

0.3

direct counting

Komura,
Tanaka
1972

1980 40.8

2.4

direct counting

Norman 1980

1.4

comparison of Lu-Hf isochron of


eucrite meteorites with Rb-Sr, U-Pb,
and Sm-Nd ages
Patchett and Tatsumoto 1980b

1.4

Tatsumoto,
comparison of Lu-Hf and U-Pb ages Patchett
of Antarctic meteorites
1981

1980 35.3

1981 35.7

Sakamoto,

Unruh,

and

and

comparison of Lu-Hf, Rb-Sr, and


U-Pb ages of the Amtsoq Gneisses
Pettingill and Patchett 1981

1982 35.7
1982 35.9

0.5

direct counting

Sguigna,
Larabee,
Waddington 1982

1983 37.8

0.1

direct counting

Sato, Ohoka, and Hirose 1983

1990 40.5

0.9

direct counting (spectrometer)

Gehrke, Casey, and Murray


1990

1992 37.3

0.5

direct counting

Dalmasso, Barci-Funel, and


Ardisson 1992

1998 36.9

0.2

direct counting

Nir-El and Lavi 1998

comparison of methods
Tatsumoto et al 1981)

2001 35

and

(adjusting
Begemann et al. 2001

0.46

comparison of Lu-Hf and


isochron ages of four minerals

2002 35.9

0.5

comparison of Lu-Hf and Sm-Nd


ages of eucrite meteorites (based on
Sguigna, Larabee, and Waddington
1982)
Blichert-Toft et al. 2002

2003 34.95

0.21

comparison
of
meteorites
Allende Pb-Pb ages

2003 40.8

0.3

direct counting (spectrometer)

Grinyer et al. 2003

2003 36.77

0.75

direct counting (spectrometer)

Nir-El and Haquin 2003

2004 37.12

0.09

comparison of Lu-Hf and U-Pb ages


of Precambrian mafic intrusions
Sderlund et al. 2004

2004 37.12

0.09

comparison of Lu-Hf and


ages of chondrite meteorites

2005 37.18

0.43

comparison of Lu-Hf and U-Pb ages


of phosphates from meteorites
Amelin 2005

for Richardton (H5)

2005 37.83

0.24

comparison of Lu-Hf and U-Pb ages


of phosphates from meteorites
Amelin 2005

for Acapulco

2001 37.16

U-PbScherer, Mnker, and Mezger


2001

with
Bizzarro et al. 2003

Sm-Nd
Patchett et al. 2004

2006 38.3

0.4

mean values

Albarde et al. 2006

for physical counting


experiments

2006 37.12

0.05

mean values

Albarde et al. 2006

for age comparisons of


terrestrial minerals

2006 35.39

0.16

mean values

Albarde et al. 2006

for age comparisons of


meteorites

0.12

Bouvier,
comparison of Lu-Hf and U-Pb ages Patchett
of chondrite meteorites
2008

2008 36.78

Vervoort,

and

Discussion
Since the early 1960s the reported half-life determinations have scattered around 37 Byr, although there are extreme
outliers on the low side at 21.8 Byr (Donhoffer 1964), as well as on the high side at 50 Byr (Sakamoto 1967) (table 1 and fig.
3). However, during the last three decades since 1980 the scatter has been very much reduced. So that the differences and
trends in the data can be more easily seen, the relevant section of Fig. 3 has been expanded in Fig. 4. The values of 40.8
2.4 Byr of Norman (1980) and 40.5 0.9 Byr of Gehrke, Casey, and Murray (1990), the latter obtained on a sample enriched
in 176Lu to 44%, are more than 3 above each of the measurements preceding and following this work (table 1). Nir-el and
Lavi (1998) suggested the adoption of a half-life of 37.3 0.1 Byr, which is the weighted mean of the half-life determinations
of 37.8 0.01 Byr (Sato, Ohoka, and Hirose 1983), 37.3 0.05
Byr (Dalmasso, Barci-Funel, and Ardisson 1992), and their own
36.9 0.02 Byr. Nir-el and Lavi (1998) did not explain their
selection criteria, except that the adopted value should be
calculated from the grouping of values in the range 3738 Byr.
Taken at face value, this criterion disqualifies their own result of
36.9 Byr, but makes eligible that of Komura, Sakamoto, and
Tanaka (1972) of 37.9 Byr which they did not consider. These
half-life differences do not at first glance appear to be really
significant in view of the value being in excess of 30 billion
years. However, even a small difference in the half-life can
mean a huge difference when it is used to calculate the age of
a rock, on the order of tens of millions of years,

Fig. 3.Plot of each 176Lu half-life determination versus the year


of its determination, color-coded according to the method of its
determination.
Fig. 4.Enlarged plot of the 176Lu half-life determinations since
1980 versus the year of their determination, color-coded
according to the method of their determination.
Patchett and Tatsumoto (1980b) produced a Lu-Hf isochron for
eucrite meteorites, which based on several lines of good
evidence are regarded to have all come from the same
asteroid 4-Vesta that supposedly differentiated at about 4.55
Ga (McSween et al. 2013). Using this known age, the Lu-Hf
isochron yielded a decay constant of 1.96 0.08 10 -11per year, with uncertainty at the 95% confidence level, which is
equivalent to a half-life of 35.3 1.4 Byr. This was subsequently updated by Tatsumoto et al. (1981) to 1.94 0.07 10 11
per year (a half-life of 35.7 1.4 Byr) by the addition of three more eucrite meteorite analyses to their Lu-Hf isochron.
However, Begemann et al. (2001) argued that because some of the eucrites, notably those at the higher end of their Lu-Hf
isochron, have been interpreted as having an age of formation that is 0.1 Ga younger than the main population (Mittlefehldt
et al. 1998), it could be argued that
a 176Lu decay constant of 1.98 10 11
per year (a half-life of 35 Byr) is
the best value resulting from the
Tatsumoto, Unruh, and Patchett
(1981) study.
In subsequent cosmochronology,
geochronology and corresponding
chemical evolutionary studies, the
decay constant of 1.94 10-11 per
year (half-life of 35.7 Byr) from
Tatsumoto, Unruh, and Patchett
(1981) was used from 1981 to 1997.
This half-life of 35.7 Byr is 4% lower
than the optimum value of 37.3 0.1
Byr suggested by Nir-el and Lavi
(1998). Blichert-Toft and Albarde
(1997) analyzed a number of
chondritic meteorites for their Lu-Hf
isotope systematics, and redefined
the meteoritic reference parameters

for Hf isotope evolution in rocky planets and asteroids. They used the decay constant of 1.93 10 -11 per year (a half-life of
35.9 Byr) from Sguigna, Larabee, and Waddington (1982). This value is so similar to that of Tatsumoto, Unruh, and Patchett
(1981) that this switch had only a small effect on Hf isotopic studies of the earth and other planetary samples. However, the
discrepancy of ~4% between half-lives from physical measurements and from meteorite radioisotope ages remained, as
well as the dispersion in all determinations, so this problem still needed to be addressed in future investigations.Because
naturalists postulate the origin of the elements via nucleosynthesis in stars so that they comment on Lu decay in that
context, some explanations of terms they use are warranted here. The s-process (or slow-neutron-capture-process) is the
nucleosynthesis process that evidently occurs at relatively low neutron density and intermediate temperature conditions in
stars. Under these conditions heavier nuclei are created by neutron capture, increasing the atomic weight of the nucleus
by one. A neutron in the new nucleus then decays by - decay to a proton, creating a nucleus of higher atomic number. This
s-process is thus secondary, meaning that it requires preexisting heavy isotopes as seed nuclei to be converted into other
heavy nuclei. The rate of neutron capture by atomic nuclei is slow relative to the rate of radioactive - decay, hence the
name. Although considerable variability exists, it is estimated that the current time between successive neutron captures is
about 100 years, whereas the time for decay is about one minute. Thus if decay can occur at all, it almost always occurs
before another neutron can be captured. On the other hand, the r-process, which differs from the s-process by its faster rate
of neutron capture of more than one neutron, entails a succession of rapid neutron captures (hence the name r-process) by
heavy seed nuclei, typically 56Fe or other more neutron-rich heavy isotopes, before decay takes place. The r-process is
thus responsible for the creation of approximately half of the neutron-rich atomic nuclei heavier than iron, whereas the sprocess produces approximately the other half of the isotopes of the elements heavier than iron. Taken together these two
processes are claimed to account for a majority of the supposed galactic chemical evolution of elements heavier than
iron.In any case, it should be emphasized that any differences in the 176Lu half-life between those values determined by
direct counting experiments and those values determined by comparisons of radioisotope ages of the same meteorites and
terrestrial materials cannot be accounted for by the branching in the decay of 176Lu because both methods measure only the
partial decay to 176Hf (fig. 1), which accounts for >99% of the 176Lu decay. Furthermore, as pointed out by Begemann et al.
(2001), 176Lu is also claimed to be important as the only long-lived nuclide that is close to 100% s-process in terms of its
supposed stellar origin, being shielded from r-process contributions by stable 176Yb. Thus, according to naturalistic
theory, 176Lu could be used to calculate the supposed age of the galactic s-process. However, a consistent level of early
interest (for example, Audouze, Fowler, and Schramm 1972; Beer et al. 1981; McCulloch, De Laeter, and Rosman 1976)
became tempered by the realization that an excited isomer of 176Lu that decays rapidly to176Hf would have its abundance
enhanced by typical stellar temperatures. This thermal effect would thus prevent any s-process age calculation (Beer et al.
1984). In any case, this is not relevant to these problems involving terrestrial, lunar, or meteoritic materials, because at
temperatures up to 10 million degrees the 176Lu half-life would apparently be shortened by only a miniscule amount. On the
other hand, if the 176Lu atoms were highly ionized or buffeted by the high pressure waves which occur due to cavitation, for
example, during the rapid flow of water (as would have been occurring during the Flood), then changes to the decay rate
could have been significantly large, even by several orders of magnitude (Cardone, Mignani, and Petrucci 2009). It only
stands to reason that any process which reduces the coulomb barrier of the nucleus can significantly affect the decay
process, especially a radionuclide which decays.The discrepancies between different determinations of the 176Lu half-life
became even more apparent when in 2003 two independent results of direct counting experiments were published. Grinyer
et al. (2003) measured a half-life of 40.8 0.03 Byr, whereas Nir-El and Haquin (2003) reported a half-life of only 36.77
0.75 Byr from their experiment. Both of these published uncertainties were claimed to be the actual uncertainties from the
presumed correct values for the half-life, given the claimed elimination of measurement uncertainties in the methods used in
each case. Furthermore, further radioisotope age comparisons had determined the 176Lu half-life as 37.16 0.46 Byr based
on the U-Pb and Lu-Hf isochron ages of minerals extracted from four earth rocks (Scherer, Mnker, and Mezger 2001), as
35.9 0.09 Byr based on Sm-Nd and Lu-Hf isochron ages of eucrite meteorites (Blichert- Toft et al. 2002), and as 34.95
0.21 Byr based on the Lu-Hf isochron age of a large group of chondrite and eucrite meteorites compared to the Pb-Pb
isochron age of 4.56 Ga for the naturalistic formation of chondrites (Amelin et al. 2002; Bizzarro et al. 2003) (table 1). The
subtle discrepancies between determinations were thus highlighted by Scherer, Mezger, and Mnker (2003) in a diagram
which is reproduced here as Fig. 5. They added further 176Lu decay constant determinations based on the U-Pb and Lu-Hf
isochron ages of minerals extracted from more earth rocks, plus their own 176Lu decay constant determination based on
comparing the radioisotope ages of eucrite meteorites, to their previous study (Scherer, Mnker, and Mezger 2001) to show
that there are differences in the 176Lu decay rate as determined by physical counting experiments, as determined by age
comparisons of terrestrial minerals, and as determined by age comparisons of meteorites.
Fig. 5.Comparison of the 176Lu decay constant determinations since 1980, grouped according to the determination method
by Scherer, Mezger, and Mnker (2003). The vertical shaded areas indicate the two standard deviations (2) from the mean
values (vertical lines) for each method.Albarde et al. (2006) continued the recognition and discussion of this same
observation. Their diagram plotting the differences in the decay constant between determinations using terrestrial materials
and determinations using meteorites, as well determinations resulting from physical counting experiments was based on the
Scherer, Mezger, and Mnker (2003) diagram, but also included the Nir-El and Haquin (2003) physical counting result and
determinations by Sderlund et al. (2004) from comparing the Lu-Hf and U-Pb radioisotope ages of Precambrian mafic
intrusions. Their diagram is reproduced here as Fig. 6. Albarde et al. (2006) found that using the earth-based 176Lu decay
constant the Lu-Hf ages of chondrites were consistently 4% higher than their U-Pb ages, so the reconciliation of the Lu-Hf
and U-Pb ages required using a different meteorite-based 176Lu decay constant. Ironically, but significantly, Albarde et al.
(2006) proposed that this discrepancy between the terrestrial and meteoritic decay constants could be because of
accelerated 176Lu decay during the first few million years of the supposed existence of the solar nebula due to irradiation of
the 176Lu by -rays emitted by one or more supernova(e) exploding in the vicinity of the solar nebula.
Fig. 6.Comparison of the 176Lu decay constant determinations since 1980, grouped according to the determination method
by Albarde et al. (2006). The vertical shaded areas indicate the two standard deviations (2) from the mean values (vertical
lines) for each method.

However, in the related context of nucleosynthesis of the elements inside stars, Zhao and Kppeler (1990) had found the
absorption cross-section to produce 176Lu to be small and hence had found problems explaining their data. On the other
hand, 176Lu is produced at rather high rates in high energy accelerators, which of course means relatively high crosssections at energies above 1 GeV. Nevertheless, they concluded that to reestablish the 176Lu clock for determining the
supposed age of the s-process elements would, in any case, require a quantitative description of all processes feeding the
ground state as well as a reliable model for the s-process environment, in particular for the temperatures to which 176Lu was
exposed during its production and ever since. However, even though these effects of ionization on the nuclear half-lives can
be enhanced inside stars due to the extreme ionization prevalent there, such contexts are not relevant in the creationist
framework for the history of the earth and the universe. The earth and its rocks, and their contained elements and isotopes,
were all created before the stars, the other planets, the moons, and the asteroids from which the meteorites subsequently
came. And then in their history since their creation, neither the earth nor the asteroids have been subjected to the intense
ionization inside stars.In any case, Wimpenny, Amelin, and Yin (2013) have pointed out that using the 176Lu decay constant
determined from radioisotope age comparisons of terrestrial rocks to calculate the Lu-Hf ages of meteorites supposedly
older than ~4.556 Ga results in apparent ages that are older than the claimed age of the solar system. They noted the
suggested possible explanation that the 176Lu decay rate had been enhanced (or accelerated) by photo-excitation of 176Lu by
-rays (Albarde et al. 2006) or by cosmic rays (Thrane et al. 2010) shortly after supposed accretion began in the early solar
system. But they then sought to test that explanation by looking for the depleted 175Lu/176Lu ratios and excess176Hf such
irradiation would have produced in meteorites. They found no systematic differences in the Lu isotopic compositions
between terrestrial
basalts
and
achondrite
meteorites (eucrites
and
angrites).
Furthermore,
the
Lu-Hf systematics
in whole rock and
mineral separates
from
angrite
meteorites (Amelin,
Wimpenny, and Yin
2011;
Sanborn,
Carlson,
and
Wadhwa
2012)
produce Lu-Hf ages
concordant
with
their Pb-Pb and
Sm-Nd radioisotope
ages rather than
expected
older
ages. Thus they
concluded
that
together these data do not support the hypothesis of accelerated decay of 176Lu by -ray or cosmic ray irradiation during
supposed solar system accretion, which of course is an evolutionary concept that simply does not work.
Now while Albarde et al. (2006) included in their diagram (fig. 6) the latest determinations from physical counting
experiments and from the comparison of ages for more earth rocks, they missed including further more recent
determinations using the comparison of ages for more meteorites, and for minerals extracted from them. Patchett et al.
(2004) analyzed the Lu-Hf and Sm-Nd isotopic systematics for 19 chondrite meteorites and found agreement between the
calculated Sm-Nd and Lu-Hf isochron ages by using a 176Lu decay constant of 1.867 10-11 per year (a half-life of 37.12 Byr)
similar to that obtained by Scherer, Mnker, and Mezger (2001) and Sderlund et al. (2004) from comparison of Lu-Hf and
U-Pb isochron ages in terrestrial rocks and minerals. Similarly, Amelin (2005) obtained Lu-Hf and U-Pb isotope data for
phosphate minerals separated from the Acapulco (primitive achondrite) and Richardton (ordinary chondrite) meteorites and
concordant Lu-Hf and Pb-Pb isochron ages yielded 176Lu decay constants of 1.832 10-11 per year and 1.864 10-11 per
year (half-lives of 37.83 Byr and 37.18 Byr) respectively (table 1). Then Bouvier, Vervoort, and Patchett (2008) similarly
obtained Lu-Hf isotopic data for another 28 pristine chondrite meteorites and added to them the Lu-Hf data of Bizzarro et al.
(2003) and Patchett et al. (2004) to calculate a Lu-Hf isochron age concordant with the presumed Pb-Pb isochron age for
the start of the supposed accretion of the solar system (Bouvier et al. 2007), by which they determined a 176Lu decay
constant of 1.884 10-11 per year (a half-life of 36.78 Byr).All the 176Lu half-life determinations since 1980 are thus plotted in
Fig. 7, color-coded according to the different determination methods. At this expanded scale for the half-life values it is
apparent that there are two groupings of values among those obtained by the physical counting experiments, and another
two groupings of values among those obtained by age comparisons using meteorites, each with their own mean value and
two standard deviation spread. On the other hand, the half-life values obtained by age comparison using terrestrial minerals
and rocks cluster very tightly around a mean value of 37.12 Byr (a decay constant of 1.867 10 -11 per year) with a two
standard deviation spread of 0.43 Byr, which would be much less if one samples value was ignored. The mean values and
two standard deviation spreads for all the groupings depicted in Fig. 7 are listed in Table 2, including the grouping of all the
determinations using meteorites for age comparisons (the black vertical line and cross-hatched area in fig. 7). For
comparison, the mean (average) half-life value for the 14 direct counting determinations made prior to 1980 (from table 1) is
listed in Table 2. At 32.8 Byr it is much lower than the means of both groups of post- 1980 direct counting determinations.
This is of course a reflection of the better resolution of the solid state detectors used for the post-1980 determinations, in
contrast to the combination of proportional chamber/ NaI (Tl doped) detectors used for the pre-1980 determinations (as
already noted above). In any case, what is immediately evident from Fig. 7 and Table 2 is that the mean half-life values for
the groupings of shorter half-life physical counting experiments, age comparisons using terrestrial minerals and rocks, and
longer half-life age comparisons using meteorites are virtually identical within their two standard deviation spreads. That is
why a 176Lu decay constant of 1.867 10-11 per year (a half-life of 37.12 Byr), based primarily on the age comparisons using
terrestrial minerals and rocks, has now generally been adopted by the geological community as the agreed value for
standard use in Lu-Hf age calculations (for example, Amelin, Wimpenny, and Yin 2011; Debaille, Yin, and Amelin 2011;
Sanborn, Carlson, and Wadhwa 2012; Thrane et al. 2010).

Table 2.Mean half-life values and two standard deviation spreads for the groupings of determinations by the different
methods as plotted in Fig. 7.
Determination Method

Grouping

Mean Value

Two Standard Deviation

physical counting

shorter half-life

36.93 Byr

0.41 Byr

physical counting

longer half-life

40.7 Byr

1.2 Byr

physical counting

prior to 1980

32.8 Byr

age comparisons (terrestrial minerals and rocks)

37.12 Byr

0.43 Byr

age comparisons (meteorites)

shorter half-life

35.39 Byr

0.88 Byr

age comparisons (meteorites)

longer half-life

37.23 Byr

0.22 Byr

age comparisons (meteorites)

all determinations

36.35 Byr

0.65 Byr

Fig. 7. Comparison of all the 176Lu half-life determinations since 1980 grouped and color-coded according to the
determination method. The vertical color shaded areas indicate the two standard deviations from the mean values (colored
vertical lines) for the groupings of determinations in each method. The uncertainties are at the 2 level.
Three issues stemming from this choice need to be resolved. First, why do a few of the physical counting experiments yield
a longer half-life mean value of 40.7 Byr, especially when the most recent of these experiments (Grinyer et al. 2003) was
reported at the same time as the most recent determination in the shorter half-life grouping with a half-life mean value of
36.93 Byr in Fig. 7 (Nir-El and Haquin 2003)? There was a difference in the methodology of these two physical counting
experiments. Grinyer et al. (2003) used the --coincidence method, whereas Nir- El and Haquin (2003) simply used counting. The --coincidence method has more potential difficulties if not done correctly, so the direct -counting method
may give a better result. However, that must not explain this difference in the determined half-life values, because the -coincidence method was also used by Sguigna, Larabee, and Waddington (1982), but they obtained a half-life value of only
35.9 Byr, whereas Norman (1980) used the -counting method and obtained a half-life value of 40.8 Byr, the same as
Grinyer et al. (2003). And the different half-life values obtained cannot be explained by the Lu source material used,
because both Grinyer et al. (2003) and Nir- El and Haquin (2003) used Lu 2O3powder, whereas Norman (1980) used Lu
metal foil. Of course, the grain size of the powder can make a difference in the effective density of the powder and therefore
the absorption correction. So these disparities in the determined half-lives between these physical counting experiments
remain unresolved.Second, why do the earlier determinations using age comparisons of meteorites yield a shorter half-life
value than the more recent determinations using age comparisons of meteorites? Bouvier, Vervoort, and Patchett (2008)
seem to have the answer when they concluded that thermal- or shock-metamorphosed meteorites (such as eucrites)
cannot be used to reliably determine the 176Lu decay constant and this is especially true when multiple meteorites or
meteorite groups with distinct thermal and shock metamorphic histories, and parent bodies are included in the regression to
determine the 176Lu decay constant. Patchett and Tatsumoto (1980b), Tatsumoto, Unruh, and Patchett (1981), and BlichertToft et al. (2002) all used eucrite meteorites, and Bizzarro et al. (2003) used both eucrite and chondrite meteorites, whereas
Patchett et al. (2004) and Bouvier, Vervoort, and Patchett (2008) only used chondrite meteorites, and Amelin (2005) used
phosphate minerals from chondrite and primitive achondrite meteorites, not eucrite meteorites. As Amelin, Wimpenny, and
Yin (2011) and Sanborn, Carlson, and Wadhwa (2012) found, there is evidence of significant disturbance of the Lu-Hf
systematics among the mineral phases in some meteorites after initial closure of the isotopic system due to open
geochemical system behavior, such as leakage of 176Hf.Third, the favored radioisotope method used for age comparisons to

most reliably determine the 176Lu decay constant and half-life is the U-Pb method. All the age comparisons on terrestrial
rocks and minerals (Scherer, Mnker, and Mezger 2001; Scherer, Mezger, and Mnker 2003; Sderlund et al. 2004), and
the age comparisons on meteorites by Amelin (2005) and Bouvier, Vervoort, and Patchett (2008), used the U-Pb method to
determine the 176Lu decay constant and half-life. So the values of 1.867 10 -11 per year and 37.12 Byr now routinely
adopted for Lu-Hf age calculations are firmly calibrated against the U-Pb method. Yet even this U-Pb gold standard has
come under similar scrutiny in the last decade. The U-Pb method depends on the crucial 238U/235U ratio, but discrepancies
and variations have been found between the 238U/235U ratio in U-bearing terrestrial minerals and rocks and the 238U/235U ratio
in meteorites (Brennecka and Wadhwa 2012; Hiess et al. 2012). These discrepancies and variations remain unexplained, so
their potential significance from a creationist perspective awaits further study, especially in the context of examination of the
determinations of the 238U and 235U decay constants and half-lives. Furthermore, the fact that there are these variations in
the crucial 238U/235U ratio in terrestrial minerals and rocks on which the U-Pb dating gold standard depends, which has been
used to calibrate Lu-Hf isochron ages to determine the 176Lu half-life and decay constant, only underscores that these
radioisotope methods cannot provide the absolute invariable dates they are so confidently proclaimed to provide. Thus the
U-Pb method should not be used as a standard to determine other radioisotope decay constants.Finally, it would remain
prudent to be very careful with these geological comparison methods for two other reasons. First, there are significant flaws
in the basic assumptions on which all the radioisotope dating methods depend. Second, the U-Pb method relies primarily on
decay, whereas the Lu-Hf method relies on decay. As observed by both Austin (2005) and Snelling (2005), these
different decay modes seem to yield different ages for some earth rocks using the same samples with essentially the same
methodology. Furthermore, as described earlier, the differences in the 176Lu decay constant and half-life values determined
by physical counting and --coincidence counting experiments remain unexplained and unresolved, when these direct
counting methods should be expected to yield reliable and consistent 176Lu decay constant and half-life determinations.
However, at the low counting rates which are involved even small corrections to the data can easily cause the observed
differences. So without an accurately known 176Lu decay constant and half-life, accurate Lu-Hf radioisotope ages cannot be
determined. Therefore, Lu-Hf dating cannot be used to reject the young-earth creationist timescale. Indeed, current
radioisotope dating methodologies are at best hypotheses based on extrapolating current measurements and observations
back into an assumed deep time history for the cosmos. Nevertheless, although the products from the multi-billion half-life of
Lu are a seeming challenge to a young age for the earth, they have been already explained by the evidence for accelerated
radioisotope decay during a past catastrophic event, such as the Flood (Vardiman, Snelling, and Chaffin 2000, 2005).
Conclusions
There have been numerous attempts to determine the 176Lu half-life and decay constant in the last 75 years by two methods
direct counting of the -rays emitted by the daughter 176Hf as it falls from an excited state to its ground state after being
derived by the decay of its parent 176Lu, and comparisons of Lu-Hf ages of terrestrial minerals and rocks, and meteorites,
with ages derived by other radioisotope systems, especially U-Pb. The estimates of the 176Lu half-life have not been
consistent, even since 1980 as improvements have been made in measurement technologies. Indeed, there are two distinct
separate groupings of determinations obtained by physical direct counting experiments with mean half-life values of 36.93
Byr and 40.7 Byr, with these differences apparent in two experiments performed in the same year (2003). This discrepancy
has still neither been explained nor resolved.The initial use of meteorites to determine the 176Lu decay constant (and halflife) via age comparisons also suggested a disparity with the 176Lu decay constant (and half-life) determined by the physical
counting experiments and with the176Lu decay constant (and half-life) determined by age comparisons of terrestrial minerals
and rocks. However, more recent determinations using meteorites for age comparisons have produced a distinct separate
grouping with 176Lu decay constant and half-life mean values virtually identical to those obtained by age comparisons of
terrestrial minerals and rocks, and to those in the shorter half-life grouping of physical counting experiments. It was thus
realized that the eucrite meteorites used for not as suitable because of significant disturbance of the Lu-Hf systematics
among mineral phases due to open geochemical system behavior, such as leakage of 176Hf. Consequently a 176Lu decay
constant of 1.867 10-11 per year (a half-life of 37.12 Byr), based primarily on the age comparisons using terrestrial minerals
and rocks, has now generally been adopted by the geological community as the agreed value for standard use in Lu-Hf age
calculations.Nevertheless, all the age comparisons on terrestrial rocks and minerals, and the more recent age comparisons
on meteorites, used the U-Pb method to determine the 176Lu decay constant of 1.867 10-11 per year and half-life of 37.12
Byr, and thus Lu-Hf age calculations are ultimately calibrated against the U-Pb method. However, this U-Pb gold standard
depends on the crucial 238U/235U ratio, and yet discrepancies and variations have been found between the 238U/235U ratio in Ubearing terrestrial minerals and rocks and the 238U/235U ratio in meteorites. These discrepancies and variations remain
unexplained. This only serves to highlight that if the Lu-Hf dating method has been calibrated against the U-Pb gold
standard with its own uncertainties, then it cannot be absolute, especially as the176Lu decay rate has also not been
accurately determined by physical direct counting experiments. Without an accurately known 176Lu decay constant and halflife, accurate Lu-Hf radioisotope ages cannot be determined. Therefore, Lu-Hf dating cannot be used to reject the youngearth creationist timescale, especially as current radioisotope dating methodologies are at best hypotheses based on
extrapolating current measurements and observations back into an assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Rhenium-187 ( 187Re)
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on February 25, 2015
Abstract
Over the last 66 years numerous determinations have been made of the 187Re half-life and decay constant. With the
measurement technology having improved, the determinations over the last 20 years have resulted in close agreement
between the four determination methodsdirect physical counting and in-growth experiments, and radioisotope age
comparisons using molybdenites and groups of meteorites. Thus the 187Re half-life and decay constant values of 41.577
0.12 Byr and 1.6668 0.0034 10-11 per year respectively have now been adopted for standard use by the uniformitarian
geological community. These values are based on determinations recalibrating Re-Os model ages of molybdenites by
forcing them (essentially by circular reasoning) to agree with the U-Pb concordia-Pb-Pb intercept ages of zircons from the
same 11 magmatic-hydrothermal systems dating from ca. 90 Ma to ca. 2670 Ma. This value is essentially identical to the
best of the recent determinations using groups of iron meteorites. It is also within the uncertainty range of the half-life
values obtained by the best of the physical direct counting and in-growth experiments. Yet, in spite of such experiments
directly measuring 187Re decay and its decay product 187Os respectively, preference has been given to the half-life value
determined by forcing the Re-Os data to agree with U-Pb dates. But many unprovable assumptions are also involved, not
least being that the radioisotope systems closed at the same time and subsequently remained closed. Furthermore, even
this gold standard has unresolved uncertainties due to the U decay constants being imprecisely known, and to measured
variations of the 238U/235U ratio in terrestrial rocks and minerals and in meteorites. Both of these factors are so critical to the
U-Pb method, as well as the additional factor of knowing the initial concentrations of the daughter and index isotopes, so it

should not be used as a standard to determine other decay constants. In any case, the half-life of 187Re has been shown to
be dependent on environmental conditions such as the degree of ionization. Fluctuations in nuclear decay rates have also
been observed to correlate with solar activity for a few other isotopes, while there is evidence decay rates of the
radioisotopes used for rock dating have not been constant in the past. This only serves to highlight that if the Re-Os dating
method has been calibrated against the U-Pb gold standard with all these uncertainties, then it cannot be absolute, and
therefore it cannot be used to reject the young-earth creationist timescale. Indeed, current radioisotope dating
methodologies are at best hypotheses based on extrapolating current measurements and observations back into an
assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Keywords: radioisotope dating, decay constants, half-lives, rhenium-187, 187Re, decay, direct counting, in-growth
experiments, geological comparisons, molybdenites, iron meteorites, U-Pb gold standard, U decay constants, 238U/235U
ratio, environmental conditions
Introduction
Radioisotope dating of rocks and meteorites is perhaps the most potent claimed proof for the supposed old age of the earth
and the solar system. The absolute ages provided by the radioisotope dating methods provide an apparent aura of certainty
to the claimed millions and billions of years for formation of the earths rocks. Many in both the scientific community and the
general public around the world thus remain convinced of the earths claimed great antiquity.However, accurate radioisotopic
age determinations require that the decay constants of the respective parent radionuclides be accurately known and
constant in time. Ideally, the uncertainty of the decay constants should be negligible compared to, or at least be
commensurate with, the analytical uncertainties of the mass spectrometer measurements entering the radioisotope age
calculations (Begemann et al. 2001). Clearly, based on the ongoing discussion in the conventional literature this is not the
case at present. The stunning improvements in the performance of mass spectrometers during the past four or so decades,
starting with the landmark paper by Wasserburg et al. (1969), have not been accompanied by any comparable improvement
in the accuracy of the decay constants (Begemann et al. 2001; Steiger and Jger 1977), in spite of ongoing attempts (Miller
2012). The uncertainties associated with direct half-life determinations are, in most cases, still at the 1% level, which is still
significantly better than any radioisotope method for determining the ages of rock formations. However, even uncertainties
of only 1% in the half-lives lead to very significant discrepancies in the derived radioisotope ages. The recognition of an
urgent need to improve the situation is not new (for example, Min et al. 2000; Renne, Karner, and Ludwig 1998). It continues
to be mentioned, at one time or another, by every group active in geo- or cosmochronology (Schmitz 2012).From a
creationist perspective, the 19972005 RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project successfully made progress
in documenting some of the pitfalls in the radioisotope dating methods, and especially in demonstrating that radioisotope
decay rates may not have always been constant at todays measured rates (Vardiman, Snelling, and Chaffin 2000, 2005).
Yet much research effort remains to be done to make further inroads into not only uncovering the flaws intrinsic to these
long-age dating methods, but towards a thorough understanding of radioisotopes and their decay during the earths history
within a biblical creationist framework.One crucial area the RATE project did not touch on was the issue of how reliable have
been the determinations of the radioisotope decay rates, which are so crucial for calibrating these dating clocks. Indeed,
before this present series of papers (Snelling 2014a, b) there have not been any attempts in the creationist literature to
review how the half-lives of the parent radioisotopes used in long-age geological dating have been determined and to collate
their determinations to discuss the accuracy of their currently accepted values. After all, accurate radioisotope age
determinations depend on accurate determinations of the decay constants or half-lives of the respective parent isotopes.
The reliability of the other two assumptions these absolute dating methods rely on, that is, the starting conditions and no
contamination of closed systems, are unprovable. Yet these can supposedly be circumvented somewhat via the isochron
technique, because it is independent of the starting conditions and is sensitive to revealing any contamination, which is still
significantly better than any radioisotope method for determining the ages of rock formations. Data points that do not fit on
the isochron are simply ignored because their values are regarded as due to contamination. That this is common practice is
illustrated with numerous examples from the literature by Faure and Mensing (2005) and Dickin (2005). On the other hand, it
could be argued that this discarding of data points which do not fit the isochron is arbitrary and therefore is not good
science, because it is merely assumed their aberrant values are due to contamination rather than that being proven to be
so. Indeed, in order to discard such outliers in any data set, one must establish a reason for discarding those data points
which cannot be reasonably questioned.In order to rectify this deficiency, Snelling (2014a,b) has documented the
methodology behind and history of determining the decay constants and half-lives of the parent radioisotopes 87Rb and 176Lu
used as the basis for the Rb-Sr and Lu-Hf long-age dating methods respectively. He showed that there is still some
uncertainty in what the values for these measures of the 87Rb and 176Lu decay rates should be. This is especially the case
with determinations of the 176Lu decay rate by physical direct counting experiments. Furthermore, the determined values
differ when Rb-Sr ages are calibrated against the U-Pb ages of either the same terrestrial minerals and rocks or the same
meteorites and lunar rocks. Ironically it is the slow decay rate of isotopes such as 87Rb used for deep-time dating that makes
a precise measurement of that decay rate so difficult. Thus it could be argued that direct measurements of their decay rates
should be the only acceptable experimental evidence, especially because measurements which are calibrated against other
radioisotope systems are already biased by the currently accepted methodology employed by the secular community in their
rock dating methods. Indeed, both the 87Rb and 176Lu decay half-lives have ultimately been calibrated against the U-Pb
radioisotope systems, yet there are now known measured variations in the 238U/235U ratio that is critical to that method
(Brennecka and Wadhwa 2012; Hiess et al 2012).Therefore, the aim of this contribution is to further document the
methodology behind and history of determining the present decay constants and half-lives of the parent radioisotopes used
as the basis for the long-age dating methods. We need to explore just how accurate these determinations are, whether there
really is consensus on standard values for the half-lives and decay constants, and just how independent and objective the
standard values are from one another between the different methods. Of course, it is to be expected that every long-lived
radioactive isotope is likely to show similar variation and uncertainty in half-life measurements because these are difficult
measurements to make. However, even small variations and uncertainties in the half-life values result in large variations and
uncertainties in the calculated ages for rocks, and the question remains as to whether the half-life values for each long-lived
parent radioisotope are independently determined. We continue here with determinations of the rhenium-187 ( 187Re) decay
rate, which is the basis for the Re-Os dating method.
Rhenium and Rhenium-187 Decay
With an atomic number Z of 75, rhenium (Re) is element number 75 and appears in the sixth period on the periodic table.
Although Re is chemically related to Mn and Tc in the group or column VIIB, its chemical properties are more similar to those
of Mo (Z = 42), which it replaces in Mo-bearing minerals such as molybdenite (MoS 2) (Faure and Mensing 2005). Rhenium
radioactively decays to osmium (Z = 76), its neighboring element, yet Os is a member of the platinum group elements
(PGEs) in group VIII of the periodic tableruthenium (Ru), rhodium (Rh), palladium (Pd), osmium (Os), iridium (Ir), and
platinum (Pt). Both Re and Os have several valences consistent with their electron configurationsRe (7+, 6+, 4+, 2+, and

1-) and Os (8+, 6+, 4+, 3+, and 2+). Additionally, their ionic radii in the 4+ valence state are identical at 0.71 , and both
elements are strongly siderophile (iron-loving). The ionic radius of Re 4+ (0.71 ) is also similar to that of Mo 4+ (0.68 ), and
their electronegativities are virtually identical (1.9 for Re and 1.8 for Mo), which explains why Re 4+ can replace Mo4+ in
molybdenite and other Mo-bearing sulfide minerals (Faure and Mensing 2005). Furthermore, Re 4+ tends to occur in Cu
sulfide minerals, presumably because Re4+ is captured in place of Cu2+(ionic radius of 0.69 and electronegativity of 1.9).
Re and Os concentrations are generally much higher in chondrite and iron meteorites, in which they are highly correlated,
than in most terrestrial rocks (Faure and Mensing 2005). Iron meteorites have average concentrations of 987 ppb Re and
15,260 ppb Os, whereas ordinary chondrites contain on average only 62.6 ppb Re and 690 ppb Os. Thus it has been
feasible to use the Re-Os dating method on iron meteorites. On the other hand, the average concentrations of Re and Os in
terrestrial igneous rocks are less than 1 ppb for Re and less than 3 ppb for Os. However, granitic gneisses and shales have
elevated Re concentrations ranging up to 200 ppb, making it possible to use the Re-Os dating method on organic-rich black
shales with their high Re concentrations (Schmitz 2012), the only example of radioisotope dating methods having been used
directly on sedimentary rocks. Whereas most rock-forming silicate minerals have low Re and low Os concentrations,
molybdenite (MoS2) and Cu-Ni-PGE sulfides (for example, pentlandite, chalcopyrite, and pyrrhotite) have high Re and low
Os concentrations of 100100,000 ppb and 6900 ppb respectively, which has enabled their use for Re-Os dating of sulfide
ore deposits. Re typically exists at the ppm level in molybdenite, whereas no Os is believed to be incorporated into
molybdenite during its formation (Stein et al. 2001). Thus measured Os is assumed to be radiogenic 187Os accumulated in
situ from 187Re decay, and thus model molybdenite Re-Os ages can presumably be calculated from the Re-Os isotopic
analyses of single samples. For multiple molybdenite samples assumed to have the same paragenesis the Re-Os isochron
approach is employed to supposedly verify zero initial or common 187Os and document presumed isochroneity of the
supposedly related samples. The minerals magnetite, ilmenite, and garnet with average Re concentrations of 413 ppb
have been suggested as having future potential for radioisotope dating by the Re-Os method. Of course, this implies that
the technique used has to accurately measure very miniscule amounts of Os in small samples supposedly hundreds of
millions of years old and then separate and measure from that miniscule amount the radiogenic Os compared to the
primordial and cosmogenic Os.Rhenium has two naturally occurring isotopes 185Re and 187Re whose abundances are 37.4%
and 62.6% respectively (Shirey and Walker 1998). 187Re is radioactive and emits --particles as it decays to 187Os, which is
one of the seven naturally occurring isotopes of Os. The relevant decay scheme is depicted as:
187
Re 187Os + - + v + Q
where - is a negatively charged -particle, is an anti-neutrino, and Q is the total decay energy (0.00265 MeV).
There are two parameters by which the decay rate is measured and expressed, namely, the decay constant () and the halflife (t). The decay constant can be defined as the probability per unit time of a particular nucleus decaying, whereas the
half-life is the time it takes for half of a given number of the parent radionuclide atoms to decay. The two quantities can be
almost used interchangeably, because they are related by the equation:t = ln 2 / = 0.693 /
The decay rate of 187Re has been difficult to determine because the endpoint energy of the -spectrum is only about 2.6 keV.
Similarly, the total decay energy is extremely low at 2.65 keV, even compared with that for 87Rb at 275 keV. This makes
measurement of the decay rate by direct counting very difficult, just as it has always caused problems in the accurate
determination of the 87Rb decay rate (Dickin 2005; Faure and Mensing 2005).
Determination Methods
Three approaches have been followed to determine the -decay constant and half-life of the long-lived radioactive 187Re
since Naldrett and Libby (1948) made the first attempt.
Direct counting
In this technique, the beta () activity of 187Re is counted in a source material over a designated time period, and divided by
the total number of radioactive atoms in the known quantity of Re, based on Avogadros number and the isotopic abundance
of 187Re. However, detectors with an entrance window are not suitable for the detection of the spectral shape and half-life
of 187Re because of the long half-life of 187Res unique first-forbidden -decay and its endpoint energy of only 2.6 keV, the
lowest known in nature (Ashktorab et al. 1993). Furthermore, accurate counting of solid samples has proved to be almost
impossible, due to the absorption of -particles by surrounding Re atoms (Dickin 2005). An alternative technique was thus
developed which uses either a gaseous Re compound to replace the gas filling of a proportional counter, or a liquid Re
compound in a scintillation detector. In both cases it was difficult to find compounds with suitable properties, but Brodzinski
and Conway (1965) using biscyclopentadienylrhenium hydride vapor obtained a 187Re half-life of 66 13 Byr by the former
method, and Naldrett (1984) using oxotrichlorobis (tri-phenylphosphine) rhenium V obtained a value of 35 4 Byr by the
latter method.The precision of such direct counting studies was subsequently improved by the use of microcalorimetric
determinations in which all the energy released in the -decay of 187Re is measured except that of the emitted neutrino
(Alessandrello et al. 1999; Arnaboldi et al. 2003; Ashktorab et al. 1993; Galeazzi et al. 2001). Ashktorab et al. (1993) used a
high-temperature quartz proportional counter with metallo-organic biscyclopentadienylrhenium hydride vapors (containing
natural rhenium) added to the counting gas (90% argon 10% methane) to determine a half-life for 187Re of 43.5 1.3 Byr. On
the other hand, Alessandrello et al. (1999), Galeazzi et al. (2001), and Arnaboldi et al. (2003) used cryogenic
microcalorimeters or low-temperature bolometers, which consisted of a rhenium-containing absorber that converted the
energy of the incident radiation into heat, a sensor that detected the temperature variations of the absorber, and a weak
thermal link between the detector and the heat sink. All three experiments used neutron transmutation doped germanium
thermistors with silicon chips, but whereas Galeazzi et al. (2001) used a metallic rhenium crystal for the absorber,
Alessandrello et al. (1999) and Arnaboldi et al. (2003) used silver perrhenate (AgReO 4) crystals instead. However, in spite of
using similar protocols, even all these experiments using modern methods yielded results for the half-life of 187Re with
uncertainties at the several percent level (Galeazzi et al. 2001) that are significantly different43.0 3.5 Byr (Alessandrello
et al. 1999), 41.2 0.6 Byr (Galeazzi et al. 2001), and 43.2 0.15 Byr (Arnaboldi et al. 2003). This makes these half-life
values unsuitable for high resolution Re-Os geochronology, particularly when compared with other radioisotopic systems in
use in the earth sciences.Judged from the fact that these direct counting experiments have yielded results that are not
compatible with one another within the stated uncertainties (see below), it would appear that not all the measurement
uncertainties are accounted for, and therefore the stated uncertainties are unrealistically small and typically are
underestimated. Many of such experiments are likely plagued by unrecognized systematic errors (Begemann et al. 2001).
As the nature of these errors is obscure, it is not straightforward to decide which of the, often mutually exclusive, results of
such direct counting experiments is closest to the true value. Furthermore, the presence of unknown systematic biases
makes any averaging dangerous. It is possible that reliable results of careful workers, listing realistic uncertainties, will not
be given the weights they deservethis aside from the question of whether it makes sense to average numbers that by far
do not all agree within the stated uncertainties.
In-Growth Experiments

An alternative approach to determining the 187Re decay constant and half-life is to measure the amount of 187Os produced by
the decay of a known quantity of 187Re in the laboratory over a known period of time. This method has only been attempted
by Lindner et al. (1986, 1989), who used five batches of a concentrated solution of perrhenic acid (HReO 4) for which the
precise quantity of contained Re was carefully determined and from which all residual contaminant Os was removed. To
three of the five batches were added precise measured quantities of independent spikes of the stable Os isotopes 190Os
and 192Os in an effort to improve the precision of their determination of the 87Re half-life. To one of the other batches only
a 192Os spike was added, and then a 190Os spike was only added to selected aliquots as they were withdrawn after the
respective growth periods. To the last batch only a 190Os spike was added, and then a 192Os spike was only added just
before testing after the respective growth periods. This procedure was adopted as an internal test of chemical equilibrium
and isotopic exchange. Since one spike was added at the onset of 187Os growth and the other at the end of the growth
period, any significant lack of isotopic exchange between the radiogenic 187Os and either spike would have caused a clear
discrepancy between the results based on the two spikes. The time for the start of in-growth accumulation of daughter 187Os
was measured from the end of the removal of the contaminant Os. The first batch was removed for testing after 400 days
and the other batches were progressively removed for testing in intervals of approximately 200 days, the last batch being
removed after almost five years. The 187Re/187Os, 187Re/190Os, and 187Re/192Os ratios in the final solutions at each time interval
were measured by isotope dilution using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The unweighted average of all
these determinations of the 187Re half-life, stated at the 95% confidence level, was 42.3 1.3 Byr, with the stated
uncertainties amounting to 3% and allowing for the known systematic uncertainties in the calibrations of the spikes and
standard solutions, as well as the random uncertainties (Lindner et al. 1989).
This technique thus relies on measuring the -decay product 187Os of a carefully measured amount of radioactive 187Re
accumulated over a well-defined period of time. Where feasible, this is the most straightforward technique (Begemann et al.
2001). In-growth measurement overcomes the problems encountered with direct counting of large fractions of lowenergy 187Re-emitted -particles. It also comprises the direct 187Os product of any radiation-less decays (which otherwise
cannot be measured at all). Among the drawbacks of this approach is that the method is obviously not instantaneous. The
experiment must be started long before the first results can be obtained because long periods of time are required for
sufficiently large amounts of the decay products to accumulate. In this case the period was only five years, which it could be
argued might have been too short a length of time for sufficient daughter 187Os to have accumulated for the most accurate
measurements to be made. In-growth experiments further require an accurate determination of the ratio of the two chemical
elements (parent/daughter, 187Re/187Os) as well as an accurate determination of the isotopic composition of parent and
daughter elements Re and Os at the start of the accumulation (Begemann et al. 2001). And Lindner et al. (1989) did not
take into account the effect of the neutron capture cross section of 187Os on 187Re decay, which we now know would have
been high during this five-year measurement period at the experiments temperature and thus facilitating the decay process
(Segawa et al. 2007).
Geological Comparisons of Methods
The third approach to the determination of the 187Re decay constant (and half-life) has been to date geological samples
whose ages have also been measured by other methods with presumably more reliable decay constants (Dickin 2005;
Faure and Mensing 2005). This essentially involves circular reasoning, because it is being assumed the other radioisotope
dating methods, principally the U-Pb method, gives the reliable dates to which the 187Re half-life can be calibrated to bring
the Re-Os radioisotope ages into agreement. It should be noted, however, that this is hardly objective, because all the
radioisotope ages of rocks could be wrong due to the underlying unprovable and suspect assumptions on which all the
radioisotope methods are based. Nevertheless, geological determinations of the 187Re half-life have been made over the
past 60 years using the terrestrial mineral molybdenite (MoS2) and groups of iron meteorites.
The first attempt to determine the 187Re half-life using Re-Os molybdenite dating studies could only estimate the value as
being between 5 and 250 Byr because the age of the molybdenite was unknown (Herr, Hintenberger, and Voshage 1954;
Hintenberger, Herr, and Voshage 1954). Further work by Herr and Merz (1955, 1958) on molybdenites of known ages, that
is, by assuming the ages of the molybdenites were identical to their host rocks, narrowed the estimate of the 187Re half-life
value to between 55 and 68 Byr. Then only several years later, Hirt, Herr, and Hoffmeister (1963) and Hirt et al. (1963)
determined a 187Re half-life value of 43 Byr using molybdenites of known ages, which is in good agreement with the value of
41.577 Byr via a similar determination more than 40 years later (Selby et al. 2007), a remarkable achievement given the
poor age constraints for the studied molybdenites and the ore deposits from which they came, and the very low precision of
the analytical techniques available at the time.
The 187Re decay constant and half-life have also been defined by the generation of Re-Os isochrons for groups of iron
meteorites of presumed age, first attempted by Luck, Birck, and Allgre (1980) and Luck and Allgre (1983), who obtained
half-life values of 42.8 Byr and 45.6 Byr respectively. The value for the 187Re decay rate has been subsequently refined
using new chemical separation and mass spectrometric techniques in order to generate Re-Os isochrons with higher
precision for groups of iron meteorites with presumed ages. Thus Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996), Shen,
Papanastassiou, and Wasserburg (1996), and Shukolyukov and Lugmair (1997) obtained 187Re half-life values of 41.6 Byr,
41.7 Byr, and 41.8 Byr respectively, which are almost identical to the determination of 41.577 Byr by Selby et al. (2007)
using molybdenites of known ages (according to uniformitarian assumptions). This method has the disadvantage that it
involves geological uncertainties, such as whether all isotopic systems closed at the same time and remained closed.
However, it is claimed to still provide a useful check on the laboratory determinations by direct physical counting and ingrowth experiments. Nevertheless, this approach entails multi-chronometric dating of a mineral or groups of meteorites and
cross-calibration of different radioisotopic age systems by adjusting the decay constant of the Re-Os system so as to force
agreement with the age obtained via another dating system, usually U-Pb (Begemann et al. 2001). In essence, because the
half-life of 238U is claimed to be the most accurately known of all relevant radionuclides, this usually amounts to expressing
ages in units of the half-life of 238U.
Results of the Rhenium-187 Decay Determinations
During the last 66 years numerous determinations of the 187Re decay constant and half-life have been made using these
three methods. The results are listed with details in Table 1. The year of the determination versus the value of the half-life is
plotted in Fig. 1, and the year of the determination versus the value of the decay constant is plotted in Fig. 2. In each case
the data points plotted have been color-coded the same to differentiate the values as determined by the three approaches
that have been useddirect counting, in-growth experiments, and geological comparisons with other radioisotope dating
methods.
Discussion
It is obvious from Table 1 that, in spite of the remarkable achievements involved, the earliest determinations of the 187Re
decay rate were grossly inflated, due of course to the rudimentary technology available at the time. That is why most of them
were not plotted on Figs. 1 and 2. Indeed, the only determinations prior to 1963 plotted were those of Herr and Merz (1958)

and Watt and Glover (1962), because they were within the same range as all the later determinations. Those 187Re half-life
values are 61.5 Byr and 30 Byr respectively, and they were obtained via comparison of the Re-Os ages of molybdenites of
known ages determined by other radioisotope systems, and via direct counting with a proportional counter, respectively.
However, the error bars on the pre-1963 data (see table 1) should have reflected the uncertainties due to the available
technology, so it may be difficult to justify discarding that pre-1963 data based only on the technology argument. If that early
data were retained, then it may conceivably be possible to postulate that the early measurements are reflecting a real shift in
the decay constant with time.
Table 1. Determinations of the 187Re decay rate expressed in terms of the half-life and the decay constant using direct
physical counting experiments, in-growth experiments, and comparisons of radioisotope ages of terrestrial minerals and
rocks, and meteorites.
Date

Half-Life
(Byr)

Error
(Byr)

Decay
Constant (yr-Error
1)

Method

Source

Direct counting
Geiger counter

by

Direct counting
Geiger counter

by

1948 5000
1952 5000

Direct counting by proportional


counter
Curran (1952)

1953 5000

Direct counting of tracks


photographic emulsion

1954 100

Direct counting
counter

1954 5

Hintenberger,
Herr,
and
Voshage
(1954);
Herr,
Comparison of Re-Os age with Hintenberger, and Voshage
unknown age of molybdenite
(1954)

1948 4000

1000

250

gas-filled
Naldrett and Libby (1948)
gas-filled
Sugarman and Richter (1948)

by

in
Gauthe and Blum (1953)

Geiger
Suttle and Libby (1954)

Direct counting by proportional


counter
Dixon and McNair (1954)

1954 1,300,000

Direct counting by Geiger


counter of internal gas-tube
Walton (1957)

1957 240

50

1958 61.5

6.5

1958 320

70

Direct counting
counter

1962 120

40

Direct counting by Geiger


counter of internal gas-tube
Wolf and Johnston (1962)

1.13 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os ages of


0.12 10-11 molybdenites with known ages Herr and Merz (1958)
by

Geiger
Naldrett (1958)

Direct counting by proportional


counter
Watt and Glover (1962)

1962 30

Comparison of Re-Os ages of Hirt, Herr, and Hoffmeister


molybdenites of known ages
(1963); Hirt et al. 1963)

1.61 10-11

1963 43

1965 66

13

Direct counting of internal gas by


proportional counter
Brodzinski and Conway (1965)

1965 47

Direct counting of internal gas by


proportional counter
Payne and Drever (1965)

0.03 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os ages of


iron meteorites with Rb-Sr, U-Pb,
and Sm-Nd ages
Luck, Birck, and Allgre (1980)
Comparison of Re-Os ages of
molybdenites of known ages
(Rb- Sr, K-Ar, U-Pb)
Luck and Allgre (1982)

1980 42.8

1.62 10-11

1982 45.5

1.8

1.52 10-11

0.06 10-11

1983 45.6

1.2

1.53 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os and Pb-Pb


0.08 10-11 ages of meteorites
Luck and Allgre (1983)

1984 35

1986 43.5

1.3

1989 42.3

1.3

Direct
counting
scintillation counter

by

liquid
Naldrett (1984)

1.59 10-11

In-growth experiment by liquid


0.05 10-11 scintillation counter
Lindner et al. (1986)

1.64 10-11

In-growth experiment by isotope


dilution
and
ICP
mass
spectrometer
Lindner et al. (1989)

0.05 10-11

1992 42

0.4

1.65 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os ages of


0.011 10-11 iron meteorites with Pb-Pb ages Horan et al. (1992)

1993 45

1.54 10-11

Direct counting of internal gas by


0.10 10-11 proportional counter
Ashktorab et al. (1993)

1996 41.6

0.13

1.666 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os ages of Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan


0.017 10-11 iron meteorites with Pb-Pb ages (1996)

1996 41.7

0.9

1.66 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os ages of Shen, Papanastassiou,


0.027 10-11 iron meteorites with Pb-Pb ages Wasserburg (1996)

1997 41.8

0.1

1.658 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os ages of Shukolyukov


0.003 10-11 iron meteorites with Pb-Pb ages (1997)

1999 43

3.5

1.61 10-11

Direct
counting
0.26 10-11 microbolometer detectors

2001 41.2

0.6

1.682 10-11

Direct counting
0.045 10-11 microcalorimeter

2003 43.2

0.15

1.604 10-11

Direct
counting
0.004 10-11 microbolometer detectors

1.6668 10-11

Comparison of Re-Os ages of


0.0034 10-molybdenites and U-Pb ages of
11
zircons from same orebodies
Selby et al. (2007)

2007 41.577

0.12

by

and

and

Lugmair

by
Alessandrello et al. (1999)

cryogenic
Galeazzi et al. (2001)
by
Arnaboldi et al. (2003)

Fig. 1. Plot of each 187Re half-life determination versus the year of its determination, color-coded according to the method of
its determination.
Fig. 2. Plot of each 187Re
decay
constant
determination versus the
year of its determination,
color-coded according to
the method of its
determination.
Fig. 3 is a plot of all the
post-1980
determinations
of
the 187Re half-life, colorcoded the same to
differentiate the values
as determined by the
three approaches that
have been used. All the half-life values fall within a narrow range between 41.2 Byr (Galeazzi et al. 2001) and 45.6 Byr (Luck
and Allgre 1983), except for the value of 35 Byr obtained by Naldrett (1984) (see table 1). The values of 43 Byr obtained by
Hirt, Herr, and Hoffmeister (1963) and Hirt et al. (1963) via comparison of the Re-Os ages of molybdenites of known ages
and 47 Byr obtained by Payne and Drever (1965) via direct counting of internal gas by proportional counter are also within
the narrow range of values obtained from the post-1980 determinations, although their uncertainties of 5 Byr make them
too imprecise to be seriously considered. Yet by the same standard the uncertainties of 3 Byr and 3.5 Byr in the direct
counting determinations by Ashktorab et al. (1993) and Alessandrello et al. (1999) respectively would render their half-life
values of 45 Byr and 43 Byr similarly imprecise.

Fig. 3. Enlarged plot of


the 187Re
half-life
determinations since 1980
versus the year of their
determination, color-coded
according to the method of
its determination.
Therefore, to be able to
better assess the post1980
half-life
determinations, only those
values that fell within the
narrow 4146 Byr range
were plotted with their
uncertainties in Fig. 4
according to their method
of
determination.
A
distinction was also made
between
determinations
obtained by radioisotope
age
comparisons
of
molybdenites and those
obtained by radioisotope
age
comparisons
of
groups of iron meteorites.
Fig. 4. Comparison of all the 187Re half-life determinations since 1980 in the range of 4146 Byr grouped and color-coded
according to the determination method. The vertical color-shaded areas indicate the two standard deviations (2) from the
mean values (colored vertical lines) for the groupings of determinations in each method.Among the physical direct counting

determinations, the large uncertainties in the Ashktorab et al. (1993) and Alessandrello et al. (1999) experiments causes the
four results to overlap throughout the 3948 Byr range. Yet the Alessandrello et al. (1999) result of 43 Byr falls between the
Galeazzi et al. (2001) and Arnaboldi et al. (2003) results of 41.2 Byr and 43.2 Byr respectively, but the uncertainties of
these latter results are small so that their uncertainty ranges do not overlap. Nevertheless, the three most recent physical
direct counting results were grouped to produce a mean 187Re half-life value of 42.47 1.42 Byr, which is marked by a
vertical dashed line in Fig. 4 together with the uncertainty range shaded. This mean 187Re half-life value is virtually identical
to the value of 42.3 1.3 Byr obtained by Lindner et al. (1989) in their in-growth experiment, which was a refinement of their
initial experiment (Lindner et al. 1986) and so it is ignored in this discussion of the best determination results.The 45.5 1.8
Byr 187Re half-life value obtained in the earlier Luck and Allgre (1982) determination via radioisotope age comparisons of
molybdenites is almost completely outside the range of the mean half-life value from the most recent physical direct
counting experiments and the range of the half-life value from the Lindner et al. (1989) in-growth experiment (fig. 4), so for
this discussion is ignored. On the other hand, the very precise Selby et al. (2007) 187Re half-life value of 41.577 0.12 Byr

plots on Fig. 4 within the left side of the range envelopes of the mean half-life value from the most recent physical direct
counting experiments and of the half-life value from the Lindner et al. (1989) in-growth experiment. It is also almost identical
to the Galeazzi et al. (2001) physical direct counting value for the 187Re half-life of 41.2 0.6 Byr and within its uncertainty
range.Among the determinations obtained by radioisotope age comparisons of groups of iron meteorites, the Luck and
Allgre (1983) 187Re half-life value of 45.6 1.2 Byr plots in Fig. 4 well outside the range envelopes of the mean half-life
value from the most recent physical direct counting experiments and of the half-life value from the Lindner et al. (1989) ingrowth experiment. Furthermore, it does not in any way overlap with any other determination obtained by radioisotope age
comparisons of groups of iron meteorites, so in this discussion it has been ignored. Similarly, the Luck, Birck, and Allgre
(1980) 187Re half-life value of 42.8 Byr falls outside the uncertainties range envelopes of the four post-1990 determinations
by the same method, even though the left-hand limit of its uncertainty range of 1 Byr overlaps with some of the post-1990
determinations and their uncertainties ranges. The post-1990 determinations utilized improved chemical separation and
mass spectrometric techniques, so those four determinations plot close together in Fig. 4 and together yield a mean 187Re
half-life value of 41.78 0.38 Byr. This mean value is very close to and between the 187Re half-life values of 41.577 Byr of
Selby et al. (2007) obtained by radioisotope age comparisons of molybdenites and 42.3 Byr of Lindner et al. (1989) obtained
by an in-growth experiment. Its uncertainty envelope of 0.38 Byr also fully encloses the Selby et al. (2007) 187Re half-life
value of 41.557 0.12 Byr (fig. 4), and is itself fully enclosed within the uncertainty envelopes of the Lindner et al. (1989) ingrowth experiment half-life value and of the mean half-life value of the three most recent physical direct counting
experiments. Thus unlike the determinations of the 87Rb and 176Lu half-lives (Snelling 2014a, b), here there is essential
agreement on the 187Re half-life value obtained by these four different determination methods, but only if the pre-1963
determinations are ignored.But how was such agreement obtained? In particular, how objective were the determinations by
the radioisotope ages comparisons? The Selby et al. (2007) half-life value of 41.557 0.12 Byr and decay constant value of
1.6668 0.034 10-11 per year are now regarded as well-established and thus used by the geochronology community
(Schmitz 2012). Yet these are derived values subject to geological uncertainties and cross-calibration with other radioisotope
systems that are equally subject to similar geological uncertainties and assumptions, as already noted (Begemann et al.
2001). Furthermore, direct physical counting of decay events should be the best measure of the decay rate, followed closely
by in-growth measurements of the resultant decay products over a given time period. However, these more direct methods
are relegated to only potentially affirming the determinations obtained by the radioisotope age comparisons of molybdenites
and groups of iron meteorites, whereas due to the direct nature of the physical counting methods the age comparison
methods with their inherent assumptions involved should be subject to confirmation by them.
If we consider only the post-1990 determinations via radioisotope age comparisons which utilized improved chemical
separation and mass spectrometric techniques, then the first such determination was by Horan et al. (1992). They
performed Re-Os isotopic analyses on eleven iron meteorites and constructed a Re-Os isochron for a group of six iron IIA
meteorites, obtaining a Re-Os isochron age for them of 4596 31 Ma using the Lindner et al. (1989) 187Re decay half-life of
42.3 Byr. However, according to the conventional naturalistic model for the formation of the solar system (even though there
are several good reasons to not accept this model) these iron meteorites could not be older than the age of the solar
system, as defined by Chen and Wasserburg (1981) at 4559 15 Ma based on the mean207Pb/206Pb model age of five
coarse-grained Ca-Al inclusions (CAIs) in the Allende carbonaceous chondrite meteorite. So Horan et al. (1992) adjusted
the 187Re decay half-life to 42.0 Byr in order to force the Re-Os isochron age of these iron IIA meteorites to agree with the
Chen and Wasserburg (1981) Pb-Pb model age. This then was how the Horan et al. (1992) determination of the 187Re halflife was obtained, with several accompanying assumptions, not least being the presumed age of the solar system, the
presumed identical age of the Allende CAIs and these iron IIA meteorites, and the reliability of the Pb-Pb radioisotope
systems, all of which cannot be proven.Subsequently, Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996) used Re-Os isotopic data for six
IIIAB magmatic iron meteorites, which they assumed formed as part of the primary sequence of crystallization of an
asteroidal core, to generate a Re-Os isochron with a slope of 0.07887 22 (2). They then assumed that the age of these
IIIAB iron meteorites was 4557.8 0.4 Ma, identical to the Pb-Pb model age of pyroxene separates from two angrite
meteorites as determined by Lugmair and Galer (1992). Note that the uncertainty in the Pb-Pb age for the angrites did not,
however, take into account uncertainties in the decay constants for 235U and 238U and the critical 238U/235U ratio. The
assumption of a similar age for both these IIIAB iron meteorites and the two angrite meteorites was made because of the
similar 53Mn-53Cr ages of IIIAB iron and angrite meteorites (Hutcheon et al. 1992; Hutcheon and Olsen 1991). However, that
assumption is based on the further assumption that the 53Mn-53Cr ages of those IIIAB iron and angrite meteorites can be
calibrated against the Pb-Pb model ages of two eucrite meteorites and Allende CAIs (Chen and Wasserburg 1985, Manhs,
Gpel, and Allgre 1986, 1988, Birck and Allgre 1988). The high-precision Re-Os iron IIIAB isochron obtained by Smoliar,
Walker, and Morgan (1996), combined with the assumed Pb-Pb model age for the IIIAB irons, permitted them to force the
Re-Os isochron to agree with the Pb-Pb model age in order to determine a more precise and accurate decay constant
for 187Re of 1.666 10-11 per year, corresponding to a half-life of 41.6 Byr.Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996) calculated a
0.31% uncertainty for the derived decay constant value from the regression statistics of their Re-Os isotopic data for those
iron IIIAB meteorites. However, calibration of the Os spike they used included a systematic uncertainty of up to 1.2% (2),
associated with the non-stoichiometry of the Os salt used to prepare the standard solution (Morgan et al. 1995), so this
0.31% uncertainty based just on the regression statistics is likely much lower that it really should be. Furthermore, in
assuming that the iron IIIAB meteorites have an identical Re-Os isochron age to the Pb-Pb model age for the angrite
meteorites, Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996) were assuming that the Re-Os, Pb-Pb, and Mn-Cr radioisotope systems all
isotopically closed at the same time and have not been subsequently disturbed. Those assumptions cannot be proved.
Nevertheless, the uncertainties in the decay constants for the U isotopes, and the assumption of identical closure ages for
Pb-Pb in angrites and Re-Os in IIIAB irons, perhaps contribute less to the overall uncertainty in the decay constant than the
stoichiometry issue.The results from the Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996) study are in good agreement (within 0.4%)
with results published subsequently by Shen, Papanastassiou, and Wasserburg (1996), who obtained a 187Re decay
constant of 1.66 10-11 per year and a half-life of 41.7 Byr, but who used a different Os standard for spike calibration. Shen,
Papanastassiou, and Wasserburg (1996) produced a Re-Os isochron for several iron IIAB meteorites on which other iron
meteorites they analyzed also plotted. They estimated a 1.6% uncertainty in their tracer Os calibration and a combined
uncertainty of about 4% in converting an isochron slope to an absolute age. Nevertheless, in order to determine the 187Re
decay constant of 1.66 10-11 per year and half-life of 41.7 Byr they assumed that the Os tracer calibration was correct, and
assumed that the IIAB irons whole-rock Re-Os isochron age should be adjusted to correspond to the same age as the 4566
Ma Pb-Pb model age for Allende CAIs (Chen and Wasserburg 1985; Manhs, Gpel, and Allgre 1988), the same age as
that for the oldest Pb-Pb model ages obtained for phosphates from ordinary chondrite meteorites, and the same age as that
for angrite and eucrite meteorites (Chen and Wasserburg 1985; Gpel, Manhs, and Allgre 1994; Lugmair and Galer
1992).Shen, Papanastassiou, and Wasserburg (1998) reported that their Re-Os isotopic data for pallasite meteorites plotted
along their same well-defined Re-Os isochron for the IIAB iron meteorites. So using their preliminary Re-Os data for

pallasite meteorites, Shukolyukov and Lugmair (1997) had thus calculated a 187Re decay constant of 1.658 10-11 per year
and a half-life of 41.8 Byr, by adjusting the Re-Os isochron to a Mn-Cr isochron age of 4558 Ma for the Omolon pallasite
meteorite obtained by calibrating that age against the Pb-Pb model age of pyroxene separates from the angrite meteorite
LEW86010 (Lugmair and Galer 1992). This calculation also involved the assumptions that the Omolon pallasite meteorite
formed contemporaneously with other pallasite meteorites, and that the Mn-Cr and Re-Os radioisotope systems closed at
the same time, as well as the assumption that the Omolon pallasite meteorite is the same age as the Pb-Pb model age as
the angrite meteorite LEW86010. Once again, all those assumptions cannot be proved.Subsequently, Birck and Allgre
(1998) obtained a Re-Os isochron age of 4624 Ma for a mixed collection of iron meteorites, which they interpreted as too
high compared to the age of the solar system of 4566 Ma as determined by the U-Pb systematics of Allende CAIs (Manhs,
Gpel, and Allgre 1986, 1988). They thus concluded that a better measurement of the 187Re decay constant and half-life
was highly desirable, but in the meantime the value of the 187Re decay constant should be adjusted to a value between 1.66
10-11 per year and 1.666 10-11 per year.It is interesting to note that these groups of iron meteorites have sometimes
yielded Re-Os isochron ages older than the presumed age of the solar system, so that the 187Re decay constant has had to
be adjusted based on recalibrating the Re-Os isochron ages with the accepted age of the solar system based on Pb-Pb
model ages of other meteorites and their components. However, there is also the possibility that instead this disparity
between Re-Os isochron ages and Pb-Pb model ages is perhaps related to the extreme sensitivity of the 187Re half-life to
the strength of the nuclear force, and to variations in fundamental couplings and the fine-structure constant, as first
discussed by Dyson (1972), and more recently discussed by Olive et al. (2002, 2004) and Olive and Qian (2004). This is
obviously worthy of further investigation, but is beyond the scope of this present contribution.Consequently, in order to
resolve this lingering disagreement over the 187Re decay constant and half-life and to obtain a better measurement, Selby et
al. (2007) embarked on a different approach, using cross calibration of the Re-Os molybdenite and U-Pb zircon
chronometers from magmatic-hydrothermal ore systems. This approach was taken because the Re-Os molybdenite
geochronometer has been claimed to be highly robust (Stein et al. 2001), and because the U-Pb zircon method is widely
acclaimed by uniformitarians as the most accurate and precise method of geochronology as a result of the claimed highly
robust nature of zircon, the dual U-Pb decay scheme utilized, and the claimed most precisely determined decay constants
(Bowring and Schmitz 2003; Heaman and Parrish 1991; Jaffey et al. 1971; Schoene et al. 2006). Selby et al. (2007) thus
assembled the Re-Os model ages for molybdenites and U-Pb concordia-Pb-Pb intercept ages for zircons from 11 magmatichydrothermal ore deposits apparently spanning from ca. 90 Ma to ca. 2670 Ma. The analytical uncertainties were at least 0.2
Ma for both the Re-Os molybdenite and U-Pb zircon age determinations, and yet they assumed that the timing of
crystallization of magmatism causing these magmatic-hydrothermal systems as recorded by the U-Pb zircon ages must be
slightly older than the sulfide mineralization (which includes the molybdenites) in the magmatic-hydrothermal systems
themselves. Nevertheless, they still found agreement between the U-Pb zircon and Re-Os molybdenite ages with an
excellent correlation of 1.0004 0.0023 (2) and probability of 0.99, using the 187Re and U decay constants of Smoliar,
Walker, and Morgan (1996) and Jaffey et al. (1971) respectively. This was statistically indistinguishable from a correlation of
0.9984 0.0021 (2) with a probability of 0.98, using the 238U decay constant of Jaffey et al. (1971) and the 235U decay
constant of Schoene et al. (2006). Then using the Re-Os molybdenite data together with the U-Pb zircon ages for each
deposit, new individual 187Re decay constant values were calculated for each of the 11 magmatic-hydrothermal systems, by
forcing the Re-Os ages to agree with the U-Pb ages. In this way Selby et al. (2007) declared the weighted average of these
11 values of 1.6668 0.0034 10-11 per year (2, with a probability of 0.97) to be the new 187Re decay constant (equivalent
to a half-life of 41.577 Byr), which is now in standard use by uniformitarians in geochronology (Schmitz 2012).
Selby et al. (2007) claimed their cross calibration between the U-Pb zircon and Re-Os molybdenite chronometers provides
an important independent test of the previously used 187Re decay constant, because the methodology, sample materials,
and preparation of the Os standard solution differ greatly from the study of Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996). Indeed, in
many cases the molybdenites and zircons analyzed were found together in the same rock specimens, supposedly
eliminating the need to infer genetic relationships that was necessary in analyses of different meteorite groups. However, it
is well-established that minerals even found side-by-side in the same rock specimens may not have formed at the same
time (for example, Bucher and Frey 2002; Cox, Bell, and Pankhurst 1995), yet that is the assumption that was necessary for
this U-Pb/Re-Os cross calibration study. Nevertheless, Selby et al. (2007) did show that their weighted average 187Re halflife value of 41.557 0.12 Byr using the U decay constants of Jaffey et al. (1971) is identical within the calculated
uncertainty limits to the value of 41.6 0.13 Byr obtained by Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996), which is also based on
the U decay constants of Jaffey et al. (1971) (fig. 5).
Fig. 5. Plot comparing the 187Re half-life values derived from
Selby et al. (2007) to the value of Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan
(1996). The uncertainties are at the 2 level.
Furthermore, their weighted average 187Re half-life value of
41.524 0.12 Byr using the 238U decay constant of Jaffey et al.
(1971) but the 235U decay constant of Schoene et al. (2006) is
also within the calculated uncertainty to the value of 41.6 0.13
Byr obtained by Smoliar, Walker, and Morgan (1996) (fig. 5).
Moreover, they also showed that calculating the Re-Os
molybdenite ages using the 187Re half-life values obtained by
other meteorite radioisotope age comparison studies resulted in
Re-Os molybdenite ages widely divergent from the U-Pb zircon
ages for the same magmatic-hydrothermal systems.
However, this U-Pb gold standard dating method has come
under similar scrutiny in the two last decades. Even in their
study, Selby et al. (2007) admitted that in many of the
magmatic-hydrothermal systems they U-Pb zircon dated, the
data were discordant and showed scatter, which likely impacted
the accuracy and precision of the U-Pb concordia-Pb-Pb
intercept ages used in the cross calibration with the Re-Os
molybdenite ages. Indeed, most of the reported U-Pb ages
were obtained by analyses of multi-grain zircon fractions, which can accentuate the effects of any Pb loss and/or
inheritance. Furthermore, Ludwig (2000) has demonstrated that, although almost universally ignored, the effect of the errors
in the U decay constants on U-Pb concordia-Pb-Pb intercept ages are significant, being a 4.5 Ma error for a 500 Ma age,
which amounts to almost a 1% error. The U-Pb method also depends on the crucial 238U/235U ratio, but discrepancies and

variations have been found between the 238U/235U ratio in U-bearing terrestrial minerals and rocks and the 238U/235U ratio in
meteorites (Brennecka and Wadhwa 2012; Hiess et al 2012). These discrepancies and variations remain unexplained,
especially in the context of the 238U and 235U decay constants and half-lives. Furthermore, the fact that there are these
variations in the crucial 238U/235U ratio in terrestrial minerals and rocks on which the U-Pb dating gold standard depends,
which has been used to re-calibrate Re-Os isochron ages to determine the 187Re half-life and decay constant, only
underscores that these radioisotope methods cannot provide the absolute invariable dates they are so confidently
proclaimed to provide. In any case, there is the additional assumption in all the radioisotope dating methods of having to
know the original concentrations of the daughter and index isotopes which is very significant in the U-Pb method because
the original concentrations are assumed not to be zero, in contrast to the K-Ar method. Yet there must be great uncertainty
as to what those initial values were in the unobserved past, despite the isochron and concordia techniques attempting to
negate the necessity for knowing those initial values. Thus the U-Pb method should not be used as a standard to determine
other radioisotope decay constants.Indeed, it would remain prudent to be very careful with these geological comparison
methods for two other reasons. First, there are significant flaws in the basic assumptions on which all the radioisotope dating
methods depend. Second, the U-Pb method relies primarily on decay, whereas the Re-Os method relies on decay. As
observed by both Austin (2005) and Snelling (2005), these different decay modes seem to yield different ages for some
earth rocks using the same samples with essentially the same methodology. Furthermore, these different ages yielded by
the same earth rocks are often widely divergent, even up 100200% different, which is such a huge divergence that it
renders these dating methods highly suspect, even if the differences in the determinations of the half-lives of the parent
radioisotopes seem miniscule and therefore trivial by comparison. However, it was considered prudent to still document here
these seemingly miniscule differences in half-life values, because they may be indicative of other underlying factors at work
(as already discussed briefly), and they can still lead to very significant discrepancies in the derived radioisotope ages that
might otherwise appear to be acceptably accurate to uniformitarians.In any case, as with 176Lu, there is a dependence of the
half-life of 187Re on environmental conditions such as the degree of ionization (Begemann et al. 2001). And the effects are
not entirely negligible, as is often assumed, so they must significantly impact the dating of terrestrial and meteoritic samples.
Indeed, Bosch et al. (1996) and Bosch (1999) successfully measured by two independent methods the bound state - decay
of fully ionized bare 187Re nuclei and determined a half-life of only 32.9 2.0 yr, compared to the nine orders of magnitude
greater 41.577 0.12 Byr half-life for neutral 187Re atoms. More relevant is the report from Jenkins, Mundy, and Fischbach
(2010) confirming that the previously detected correlations between solar activity and nuclear decay rates were likely not
due to seasonal variations in the sensitivities of the respective laboratory detectors, which were too small to produce the
observed fluctuations. Thus they concluded that the observed fluctuations between solar activity and nuclear decay rates
could arise from a direct interaction between the decaying nuclei and some particles or fields emanating from the sun.
However, calculated solar neutrino absorption cross sections are too small to explain the observed effect, and other
mechanisms have been investigated, such as gravitational effects (Chown 2009; Kostleck and Tasson 2009). With such
environmental influences established, it begs the question of how certain can anyone be that the nuclear decay rates
of 187Re and other parent radioisotopes used in rock dating by uniformitarians have remained constant at todays measured
slow rates through the claimed >4.5 Byr history of the earth and solar system.Nevertheless, all the age comparisons on
terrestrial rocks and minerals, and the age comparisons on meteorites, used the U-Pb method to finally determine the 187Re
decay constant of 1.6668 10-11 per year and half-life of 41.577 Byr, which are within the ranges determined by both
physical direct counting and in-growth experiments. Thus Re-Os age calculations are ultimately calibrated against the U-Pb
method. However, this U-Pb gold standard depends on whether the U decay constants are accurately and precisely
known, and on the crucial 238U/235U ratio. Yet discrepancies and variations have been found between the 238U/235U ratio in Ubearing terrestrial minerals and rocks and the 238U/235U ratio in meteorites. These discrepancies and variations remain
unexplained. This only serves to highlight that if the Re-Os dating method has been calibrated against the U-Pb gold
standard with its own uncertainties, then the claimed accurately-determined 187Re decay rate cannot be absolute, especially
given the environmental influences known to alter nuclear decay rates. Without an accurately known 187Re decay constant
and half-life, accurate Re-Os radioisotope ages cannot be determined. Therefore, Re-Os dating cannot be used to reject the
young-earth creationist timescale, especially as current radioisotope dating methodologies are at best hypotheses based on
extrapolating current measurements and observations back into an assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Conclusions
There have been numerous attempts to determine the 187Re half-life and decay constant in the last sixty-six years by four
methodsdirect physical counting and in-growth experiments, and radioisotope age comparisons using molybdenites and
groups of iron meteorites. With the measurement technology having improved, the determinations over the last 20 years
have finally resulted in close agreement. Thus the 187Re half-life and decay constant values of 41.577 0.12 Byr and 1.6668
0.0034 10-11 per year respectively have now been adopted for standard use by the uniformitarian geological community.
These adopted values are the weighted averages of eleven determinations in which the Re-Os model ages of molybdenites
were re-calibrated by forcing them to be the same as the U-Pb concordia-Pb-Pb intercept ages of zircons from the same 11
magmatic-hydrothermal systems spanning from ca. 90 Ma to ca. 2670 Ma.This adopted half-life value of 41.577 0.12 Byr
is virtually identical to the 41.6 0.13 Byr value obtained by forcing the Re-Os isochron age of a group of iron meteorites to
agree with the presumed Pb-Pb model age for the solar system obtained from pyroxene separates from two angrite
meteorites. Furthermore, the uncertainty range of the adopted 41.577 0.12 Byr half-life value lies within the uncertainty
range of the 41.78 0.38 Byr mean half-life value of the four post-1990 determinations using Re-Os/Pb-Pb age
comparisons for groups of iron meteorites. And the adopted value also lies within the uncertainty range of the 42.3 1.3
Byr half-life value obtained by an in-growth experiment, and within the uncertainty range of the 42.47 1.42 Byr mean
half-life value of the three most recent physical direct counting experiments. Yet even though there is this close agreement
between these four determination methods, the half-life value obtained by comparison of Re-Os molybdenite ages with UPb zircon ages has been given preference over the values obtained by direct counting and in-growth experiments which
directly measure 187Re decay and the187Os product of 187Re decay respectively, and so are independent of all the
assumptions involved with the radioisotope dating methods. Indeed, model dependent results should not take precedence
over the direct experimental evidence.All the age comparisons on molybdenites and groups of iron meteorites used the UPb method to determine the 187Re decay half-life, and thus all Re-Os age calculations are ultimately calibrated against the UPb method. However, this U-Pb gold standard depends on having precisely known 238U and 235U decay constants, as well
as on the crucial238U/235U ratio. Yet there are still uncertainties in the measured U decay constants, and discrepancies and
variations have been found between the 238U/235U ratio in U-bearing terrestrial minerals and rocks, and the 238U/235U ratio in
meteorites. These discrepancies and variations remain unexplained. This only serves to highlight that if the Re-Os dating
method has been calibrated against the U-Pb gold standard with its own uncertainties, then it cannot be absolute.In any
case, the half-life of 187Re has also been shown to be dependent on environmental conditions. Fluctuations in nuclear decay
rates have been observed to correlate with fluctuations in solar activity, and the degree of ionization of187Re atoms can result

in a change of nine orders of magnitude in the measured decay rate. Furthermore, there is evidence that nuclear decay
rates have not been constant in the past. Thus without an accurately known 187Re decay constant and half-life, accurate ReOs radioisotope ages cannot be determined. Therefore, Re-Os dating cannot be used to reject the young-earth creationist
timescale, especially as current radioisotope dating methodologies are at best hypotheses based on extrapolating current
measurements and observations back into an assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Acknowledgments
The invaluable help of my research assistant Lee Anderson, Jr. in compiling and plotting the data in the color-coded age
diagrams is acknowledged. The three reviewers are also acknowledged for their helpful comments and input, though the
final content of this paper is solely my responsibility. Our production assistant Laurel Hemmings is also especially thanked
for her painstaking work in preparing this paper for publication.
Determination of the Radioisotope Decay Constants and Half-Lives: Samarium-147 ( 147Sm)
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on June 10, 2015
Abstract
Over the last 80 years numerous determinations have been made of the 147Sm half-life. The determinations since 1960 have
converged on close agreement between the two primary determination techniques used in direct physical counting
experimentsionization chambers and liquid scintillation counters, and with radioisotope age comparisons using two
meteorites. Thus the147Sm half-life value of 106 0.8 Byr has now been adopted for standard use by the uniformitarian
geological community. This value is based on the weighted average of four direct counting determinations in the period
19611970 and the recalibration in the 1970s of Sm-Nd model ages of two meteorites by forcing them (essentially by
circular reasoning) to agree with their Pb-Pb isochron and model ages. However, direct counting experiments in 2003
determined the 147Sm half-life value was 10% or more longer at 117 2 Byr. This was achieved by using four standard Sm
solutions with internal -radioactive standards in 19 alpha spectrometer and 24 ionization chamber determinations, making
it the most thorough and comprehensive effort to determine the 147Sm half-life. The thinner counting sources used, while
resulting in low -activities being measured, greatly reduced the counting uncertainty due to self-absorption of the emitted particles. Although rejected or ignored, this 117 2 Byr value for the 147Sm half-life, which agrees with some earlier
determinations, may well be highly significant and more reliable than the adopted value. Yet, in spite of the many
experiments directly measuring 147Sm decay, preference has been given to the half-life value of 106 0.8 Byr determined by
forcing the Sm-Nd data to agree with Pb-Pb dates. But many unprovable assumptions are also involved, not the least being
that the radioisotope systems closed at the same time and subsequently remained closed. Furthermore, even this gold
standard has unresolved uncertainties due to the U decay constants being imprecisely known, and to measured variations
of the 238U/235U ratio in terrestrial rocks and minerals and in meteorites. Both of these factors are so critical to the U-Pb
method, as well as the additional factor of knowing the initial concentrations of the daughter and index isotopes, so it should
not be used as a standard to determine other decay constants. In any case, the determined half-life of 147Sm has been
shown to be dependent on the thicknesses of the Sm counting source and the detector. There is also evidence decay rates
of the radioisotopes used for rock dating have not been constant in the past. This only serves to emphasize that if the SmNd dating method has been calibrated against the U-Pb gold standard with all its attendant uncertainties, then it cannot be
absolute, and therefore it cannot be used to reject the young-earth creationist timescale. Indeed, current radioisotope dating
methodologies are at best hypotheses based on extrapolating current measurements and observations back into an
assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Keywords: radioisotope dating, decay constants, half-lives, samarium-147, 147Sm, decay, direct counting, emulsions,
liquid scintillation counters, ionization chambers, surface-barrier detectors, Geiger counter, counting efficiencies, geological
comparisons, meteorites, U-Pb gold standard, 238U/235U ratio
Introduction
Radioisotope dating of rocks and meteorites is perhaps the most potent claimed proof for the supposed old age of the earth
and the solar system. The absolute ages provided by the radioisotope dating methods provide an apparent aura of certainty
to the claimed millions and billions of years for formation of the earths rocks. Many in both the scientific community and the
general public around the world thus remain convinced of the earths claimed great antiquity.However, accurate radioisotopic
age determinations require that the decay constants of the respective parent radionuclides be accurately known and
constant in time. Ideally, the uncertainty of the decay constants should be negligible compared to, or at least be
commensurate with, the analytical uncertainties of the mass spectrometer measurements of isotopic ratios entering the
radioisotope age calculations (Begemann et al. 2001). Clearly, based on the ongoing discussion in the conventional
literature this is not the case at present. The stunning improvements in the performance of mass spectrometers during the
past four or so decades, starting with the landmark paper by Wasserburg et al. (1969), have not been accompanied by any
comparable improvement in the accuracy of the decay constants (Begemann et al. 2001; Steiger and Jger 1977), in spite
of ongoing attempts (Miller 2012). The uncertainties associated with most direct half-life determinations are, in most cases,
still at the 1% level, which is still significantly better than any radioisotope method for determining the ages of rock
formations. However, even uncertainties of only 1% in the half-lives lead to very significant discrepancies in the derived
radioisotope ages. The recognition of an urgent need to improve the situation is not new (for example, Min et al. 2000;
Renne, Karner, and Ludwig 1998). It continues to be mentioned, at one time or another, by every group active in geo- or
cosmochronology (Schmitz 2012). This is a key issue especially for very long half-life radioisotopes due to the very slow
accumulation of decay particle counting data, because the statistical error is equal to the square root of the total decay
particle counts.From a creationist perspective, the 19972005 RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project
successfully made progress in documenting some of the pitfalls in the radioisotope dating methods, and especially in
demonstrating that radioisotope decay rates may not have always been constant at todays measured rates (Vardiman,
Snelling, and Chaffin 2000, 2005). Yet much research effort remains to be done to make further inroads into not only
uncovering the flaws intrinsic to these long-age dating methods, but towards a thorough understanding of radioisotopes and
their decay during the earths history within a creationist framework.One crucial area the RATE project did not touch on was
the issue of how reliable have been the determinations of the radioisotope decay rates, which are so crucial for calibrating
these dating clocks. Indeed, before this present series of papers (Snelling 2014a, 2014b, 2015) there have not been any
attempts in the creationist literature to review how the half-lives of the parent radioisotopes used in long-age geological
dating have been determined and to collate their determinations so as to discuss the accuracy of their currently accepted
values. After all, accurate radioisotope age determinations depend on accurate determinations of the decay constants or
half-lives of the respective parent radioisotopes. The reliability of the other two assumptions these absolute dating methods
rely on, that is, the starting conditions and no contamination of closed systems, are unprovable. Yet these can supposedly
be circumvented somewhat via the isochron technique, because it is independent of the starting conditions and is sensitive
to revealing any contamination, which is still significantly better than any radioisotope method for determining the ages of
rock formations. Data points that do not fit on the isochron are simply ignored because their values are regarded as due to

contamination. Yet there is also no reliable way of determining the difference between isochrons and mixing lines. That this
is common practice is illustrated with numerous examples from the literature by Dickin (2005) and Faure and Mensing
(2005). On the other hand, it could be argued that this discarding of data points which do not fit the isochron is arbitrary and
therefore is not good science, because it is merely assumed the aberrant values are due to contamination rather than that
being proven to be so. Indeed, in order to discard such outliers in any data set, one must establish a reason for discarding
those data points which cannot be reasonably questioned.In order to rectify this deficiency, Snelling (2014a, 2014b, 2015)
has documented the methodology behind and history of determining the decay constants and half-lives of the parent
radioisotopes 87Rb, 176Lu, and 187Re used as the basis for the Rb-Sr, Lu-Hf, and Re-Os long-age dating methods respectively.
He showed that there is still some uncertainty in what the values for these measures of the 87Rb and 176Lu decay rates
should be, in contrast to the apparent agreement on the 187Re decay rate. This uncertainty is especially prominent in
determinations of the 176Lu decay rate by physical direct counting experiments. Furthermore, the determined values of
the 87Rb decay rate differ when Rb-Sr ages are calibrated against the U-Pb ages of either the same terrestrial minerals and
rocks or the same meteorites and lunar rocks. Ironically it is the slow decay rate of isotopes such as 87Rb used for deep time
dating that makes a precise measurement of that decay rate so difficult. Thus it could be argued that direct measurements
of these decay rates should be the only acceptable experimental evidence, especially because measurements which are
calibrated against other radioisotope systems are already biased by the currently accepted methodology that the secular
community uses in their rock dating methods. Indeed, the 87Rb, 176Lu, and 187Re decay half-lives have all ultimately been
calibrated against the U-Pb radioisotope system, yet there are now known measured variations in the 238U/235U ratio that is
critical to that method (Brennecka and Wadhwa 2012; Hiess et al. 2012).Therefore, the aim of this contribution is to further
document the methodology behind and history of determining the present decay constants and half-lives of the parent
radioisotopes used as the basis for the long-age dating methods. It is necessary to explore just how accurate these
determinations are, whether there really is consensus on standard values for the half-lives and decay constants, and just
how independent and objective the standard values are from one another between the different methods. Of course, it is to
be expected that every long-lived radioactive isotope is likely to show similar variation and uncertainty in half-life
measurements because these are difficult measurements to make. However, even small variations and uncertainties in the
half-life values result in large variations and uncertainties in the calculated ages for rocks, and the question remains as to
whether the half-life values for each long-lived parent radioisotope are independently determined. We continue here with
samarium-147 (147Sm), which is the basis for the Sm-Nd dating method.
Samarium and Samarium-147 Decay
Samarium (Sm) and neodymium (Nd) are both rare-earth elements (REEs) with atomic numbers (Z) of 62 and 60
respectively. The rare-earth elements generally form ions with a 3+ charge whose radii decrease with increasing atomic
number from 1.15 in lanthanum (La), atomic number 57, to 0.93 in lutetium (Lu), atomic number 71 (Faure and Mensing
2005). The REEs occur in high concentrations in several economically important minerals such as bastnaesite (CeFCO 3),
monazite (CePO4), and cerite [(Ca,Mg)2(Ce)8(SiO4)7 3H2O]. Furthermore, they occur as trace elements in common rockforming minerals (silicates, phosphates, and carbonates) in which they replace major element ions. They may also reside in
inclusions of certain accessory minerals in the common rock-forming silicates.Minerals exercise a considerable degree of
selectivity in admitting REEs into their crystal structures (Faure and Mensing 2005). Feldspar, biotite, and apatite tend to
concentrate the light REEs (the Ce group), whereas pyroxenes, amphiboles, and garnet concentrate the heavy REEs (the
Gd group). The selectivity of the rock-forming minerals for the light or heavy REEs obviously affects the REE concentrations
of the rocks in which those minerals occur. Sm and Nd both belong to the light REEs, so they tend to concentrate in
feldspar, biotite, and apatite. Thus the Sm and Nd concentrations in calc-alkaline plutonic and volcanic igneous rocks range
from <1 ppm in ultramafic rocks to about 8 ppm Sm and 45 ppm Nd in granite. Alkali-rich igneous rocks have consistently
higher Sm and Nd concentrations than the calc-alkaline suite, ranging up to about 15 ppm Sm and 85 ppm Nd.Sm and Nd
exhibit an unusual geochemical behavior, which arises from what is known as the lanthanide contraction (Faure and
Mensing 2005). This contraction results from the way electrons fill their f shell orbitals. As a consequence, the ionic radius of
Sm (Z = 62) is smaller than that of Nd (Z = 60). Even though the difference in the radii is small (Nd 3+ = 1.08 ; Sm3+ = 1.04
), Nd is preferentially concentrated in the liquid phase during partial melting of silicate minerals, whereas Sm remains in the
residual solids. For this reason, basalt magmas have lower Sm/Nd ratios than the source rocks from which they formed.
Thus this preferential partitioning of Nd into the melt phase has caused the rocks of the continental crust to be enriched in
Nd relative to Sm compared to the residual rocks in the lithospheric mantle.Even though the concentrations of Sm and Nd
reach high values in accessory phosphate minerals such as apatite and monazite and in carbonatites, these minerals and
carbonatites are still more enriched in Nd than in Sm and hence their Sm/Nd ratios are less than 0.32. Among the rockforming silicate minerals, garnet is the only one with a high Sm/Nd ratio (0.54) even though its concentrations of Sm and Nd
are both low (12 ppm). Several other rock-forming silicate minerals, such as K-feldspar, biotite, amphibole, and
clinopyroxene, have higher Sm and Nd concentrations than garnet, but their Sm/Nd ratios are less than 0.32 in most cases.
Sm and Nd each have seven naturally-occurring isotopes. Of these 147Sm, 148Sm, and 149Sm are all radioactive, but the latter
two have such long half-lives (about 10 16 years) that they are not capable of producing measurable variations in the
daughter isotopes 144Nd and 145Nd, even over supposed conventional cosmological intervals (1010 years) (Dickin 2005).
Yet 147Sm only has an abundance of 15.0% in naturally occurring Sm (Lide and Frederikse 1995). Although the half-life
of 147Sm is also very long (currently determined as 106 billion years), it decays by -particle emission to 143Nd, a stable
isotope of Nd. The relevant decay scheme is often depicted as:
147
Sm 143Nd + 4He + E
where 4He is an -particle and E is the total decay energy. The energy of the 147Sm emitted -particles is 2.23 MeV. This
decay scheme has proven useful to uniformitarians for apparently dating terrestrial rocks, stony meteorites (both chondrites
and achondrites), and lunar rocks.There are two parameters by which the decay rate is measured and expressed, namely,
the decay constant () and the half-life (t). The decay constant can be defined as the probability per unit time of a particular
nucleus decaying, though strictly speaking probabilities do not have units associated with them and the decay constant is
derived from a definitive functional relationship. In contrast, the half-life is the time it takes for half of a given number of the
parent radionuclide atoms to decay. The two quantities can be almost used interchangeably, because they are related by the
equation:t = ln 2/ = 0.693/
The decay rate of 147Sm has not been all that difficult to determine once the necessary instrumentation was developed to
accurately count the emitted -particles. However, the Sm-Nd dating method has had its problems.The lanthanide
contraction causes the distribution of Sm and Nd to be opposite to that of Rb and Sr (Faure and Mensing 2005). And
because Sm and Nd have very similar chemical properties (unlike Rb and Sr), large ranges of Sm/Nd ratios in whole-rock
systems are rare, and in particular low Sm/Nd ratios near the vertical y-axis on an isochron dating graph are very rare.
Therefore, because of the difficulty of obtaining a wide range of Sm/Nd ratios from a single rock body, and because of the

greater technical demands of Nd isotope analysis, the Sm-Nd isochron dating method has been generally only applied to
dating rock units for which Rb-Sr isochron dating has proven unsatisfactory. Many of those applications were also made
before the U-Pb zircon dating method had reached its present level of development. Therefore, some of those rock units
have subsequently been dated to apparent greater accuracy and precision by the U-Pb method. Nevertheless, the Sm-Nd
method has continued to be used to date rocks and meteorites and thus the determination of the 147Sm half-life used by the
method requires examination.
Determination Methods
Attempts to measure the -radioactivity of Sm date back to the early 1930s. Famous names, such as Hevesy and Pahl,
Curie and Joliot, Libby, and many more, are among the researchers who studied this phenomenon by various techniques
(Begemann et al. 2001). At that time, before 147Sm had finally been identified as the isotope accountable for the radioactivity of Sm (Weaver 1950), the half-life was calculated in terms of the total element of Sm, with results ranging from
0.63 to 1.4 1012 years (that is, 630 to 1400 Byr). Even in 1949, when 148Sm (Wilkins and Dempster 1938) and 152Sm
(Dempster 1948) had been reported erroneously to be responsible for the -activity of samarium, Picciotto still published his
result in terms of total Sm as 6.7 0.4 10 11 years (670 Byr), this quoted statistical error amounting to approximately 300
observed decays of 147Sm. Almost all attempts to measure the -radioactivity of 147Sm have been by direct counting of particles, although two geological comparisons of radioisotope ages of individual meteorites have been used to confirm the
direct counting measurements of the 147Sm half-life.
Direct counting
Initially direct measurements were done by counting -particles registered on a photographic emulsion. For example,
Picciotto (1949) used solutions of samarium sulfate to deposit layers of calculated weights of samarium across photographic
emulsions which were then left exposed to the samarium -activity for four to more than 19 days. At the end of each
exposure time interval the tracks left by the -particles on the emulsions when developed were counted. The calculated
numbers of -particles per second per gram of Sm were averaged to derive a decay rate in terms of the total Sm (all
isotopes) of 6.7 0.4 1011 years (670 Byr). Even though Beard and Wiedenbeck (1954) obtained a 147Sm half-life value
using an ionization chamber (Geiger counter), they corroborated their result by checking the energy spectrum of their
samarium source by exposing it for three weeks to a nuclear plate, which registered the tracks left by the -particles. The
mean track length compared favorably with previous emulsion experiments, and the energy distribution confirmed the tracks
were produced by -particles emitted by 147Sm.A more recent use of the emulsion method by Martins, Terranova, and
Moreira Correa (1992) involved spreading a calibrated solution of samarium nitrate over a glass plate which was then
heated to leave a stable film of samarium oxide whose uniform thickness was measured. This method enabled accurate
control, within the limits of volumetric error, of the quantity of samarium deposited on the glass plate. This glass plate was
then contacted against a plastic emulsion plate for registration of the spontaneous 147Sm -particle emission. After exposure
for 30 days, stored in an underground laboratory to protect it from cosmic radiation, the emulsion was processed to etch the
tracks left by the -particles, which were then counted. The samarium oxide film was also checked by -spectrometry to rule
out any contribution to the counted tracks from the possible presence of any U or Th atoms. A measurement of the 147Sm
half-life was then calculated from the number of -particle tracks produced from the known quantity of samarium in the
exposure time period of 30 days. Though they did not account for possible -particle energy loss in the samarium or the
glass and plastic plates, this possibility was deemed negligible.However, since the mid-1950s a variety of instruments have
primarily been used for direct counting of 147Sm -particles. In these instruments, the alpha () activity of 147Sm in a source
material is counted over a designated time period, and divided by the total number of radioactive 147Sm atoms in the known
quantity of Sm, based on Avogadros number and the isotopic abundance of 147Sm. Two types of such instruments have
been used to count the -particles emitted from different 147Sm sourcesliquid scintillation spectrometers (Beard and Kelly
1958; Donhoffer 1964; Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi 2003; Kossert et al. 2009; Wright, Steinberg, and Glendenin
1961), and ionization chambers or Geiger counters (Beard and Wiedenbeck 1954; Gupta and MacFarlane 1970; Karras and
Nurmia 1960; Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi 2003; MacFarlane and Kohman 1961). A variety of 147Sm sources have
also been used, namely, samarium octoate (Wright, Steinberg, and Glendenin 1961), samarium oxide (Beard and
Wiedenbeck 1954; Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi 2003; Kossert et al. 2009; MacFarlane and Kohman 1961; Su et al.
2010), and samarium metal (Gupta and MacFarlane1970; Su et al. 2010).In the most recent half-life determination, Su et al.
(2010) deposited 147Sm-enriched metal and oxide on pure quartz glass substrates by vacuum evaporation and sputtering
respectively, and then checked the uniformity of the thicknesses of these samples by exposing them to plastic emulsion
plates in direct contact with them. However, in using this method it is difficult to compensate for -energy loss due to
absorption. After 100 hours exposure the emulsion plates were chemically etched and the -particle tracks were observed
and counted. This does not appear to be a good way of establishing uniformity of thickness, whereas -gauging would be a
better method. Nevertheless, the -activities of the two samples were then measured by silicon surface-barrier detectors
placed in vacuum chambers for a period of 200 hours (8 days 8 hours). Finally the 147Sm half-life was then calculated from
the -activity spectra for each sample (Sm metal and Sm oxide).A liquid scintillation counter or spectrometer detects and
measures ionizing radiation by using the excitation effect of incident -particles on a scintillator material, and detecting the
resultant light pulses. It consists of a scintillator which generates photons of light in response to incident -particles, a
sensitive photomultiplier tube which converts the light to an electrical signal, and electronics to process this signal.Liquid
scintillation counting measures the -activity of a sample, prepared by mixing the -active material with a liquid scintillator,
and counting the resultant photon emissions. This allows for more efficient counting due to the intimate contact of the activity with the scintillator. Samples are dissolved or suspended in a cocktail containing a solvent, typically some form of a
surfactant, and small amounts of other additives known as fluors or scintillators.The radioactive sample is then placed in a
vial containing a premeasured amount of scintillator cocktail and this vial plus vials containing known amounts of 147Sm are
loaded into the liquid scintillation counter. Many counters have two photomultiplier tubes connected in a coincidence circuit.
The coincidence circuit assures that genuine light pulses, which reach both photomultiplier tubes, are counted, while
spurious pulses (due to line noise, for example), which would only affect one of the tubes, are ignored.When a charged
particle strikes the scintillator, its atoms are excited and photons are emitted. These are directed at the photomultiplier tubes
photocathode, which emits electrons by the photoelectric effect. These electrons are electrostatically accelerated and
focused by an electrical potential so that they strike the first dynode of the tube. The impact of a single electron on the
dynode releases a number of secondary electrons which are in turn accelerated to strike the second dynode. Each
subsequent dynode impact releases further electrons, and so there is a current amplifying effect at each dynode stage.
Each stage is at a higher potential than the previous stage to provide the accelerating field. The resultant output signal at the
anode is in the form of a measurable pulse for each photon detected at the photocathode, and is passed to the processing
electronics. The pulse carries information about the energy of the original incident -radiation on the scintillator. Thus both
the intensity and energy of the -particles can be measured.The scintillation spectrometer consists of a suitable scintillator
crystal, a photomultiplier tube, and a circuit for measuring the height of the pulses produced by the photomultiplier. The

pulses are counted and sorted by their height, producing an xy plot of scintillator flash brightness versus number of flashes,
which approximates the energy spectrum of the incident -radiation.The ionization chamber is the simplest of all gas-filled
radiation detectors, and is widely used for the detection and measurement of certain types of ionizing radiation, including particles (fig. 1). Conventionally, the term ionization chamber is used exclusively to describe those detectors which collect
all the charges created by direct ionization within the gas through the application of an electric field. It only uses the discrete
charges created by each interaction between the incident radiation and the gas, and does not involve the gas multiplication
mechanisms used by other radiation instruments, such as the Geiger- Mller counter or the proportional counter.

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the cylindrical ionization chamber (alpha spectrometer) used by Gupta and MacFarlane (1970)
in their determination of the 147Sm half-life.
An ionization chamber measures the current from the number of ion pairs created within a gas caused by incident radiation. It consists of a gas-filled chamber with two electrodes, known as the anode and cathode (fig. 1). The electrodes
may be in the form of parallel plates, or a cylinder arrangement with a coaxially located internal anode wire. A voltage is
applied between the electrodes to create an electric field in the fill gas. When gas between the electrodes is ionized by
incident ionizing -radiation (or - or -radiation), ion-pairs are created and the resultant positive ions and dissociated
electrons move to the electrodes of the opposite polarity under the influence of the electric field. This generates an ionization
current which is measured by an electrometer. The electrometer must be capable of measuring the very small output current
which is in the region of femtoamperes (10-15 amps) to picoamperes (10-12 amps), depending on the chamber design, radiation dose and applied voltage. The unique feature of ionization chambers is that the electric field strength is low enough
that no multiplication of ion pairs occurs. Hence the current generated at a given voltage depends on the type and energy of
the incident radiation but is independent over a range of applied voltages, approximately 100300 volts.Each ion pair
creates deposits or removes a small electric charge to or from an electrode, such that the accumulated charge is
proportional to the number of ion pairs created, and hence the -radiation dose. This continual generation of charge
produces an ionization current, which is a measure of the total ionizing dose entering the chamber. The electric field also
enables the device to work continuously by mopping up electrons, which prevents the fill gas from becoming saturated,
where no more ions could be collected, and by preventing the recombination of ion pairs, which would diminish the ion
current. This mode of operation is referred to as current mode, meaning that the output signal is a continuous current, and
not a pulse output as in the cases of the Geiger-Mller tube or the proportional counter. In the ionization chamber operating
region the collection of ion pairs is effectively constant over a range of applied voltage, as due to its relatively low electric
field strength the ion chamber does not have any multiplication effect. This is in distinction to the Geiger-Mller tube or the
proportional counter whereby secondary electrons, and ultimately multiple avalanches, greatly amplify the original ioncurrent charge. In the proportional counter the electric field produces discrete, controlled avalanches such that the energy
and type of radiation can be determined at a given applied field strength.The GeigerMller counter, also called a Geiger
counter, is also used for measuring ionizing radiation. It detects radiation such as -particles, using the ionization produced
in a GeigerMller tube. The processing electronics displays the result. The Geiger-Mller tube is filled with an inert gas
such as helium, neon, or argon at low pressure, to which a high voltage is applied. The tube briefly conducts an electrical
charge when a particle or photon of incident -radiation makes the gas conductive by ionization. The ionization is
considerably amplified within the tube by an avalanche effect to produce an easily measured detection pulse, which is fed to
the processing and display electronics. The electronics also generates the high voltage, typically 10001400 volts, which
has to be applied to the Geiger-Mller tube to enable its operation. The voltage must be high enough to produce avalanche
effects for all incident radiation. Thus a Geiger-Mller tube has no ability to discriminate between incident radiations; all
radiation produces the same current.There are two main limitations of the Geiger counter. Because the output pulse from a
Geiger- Mller tube is always the same magnitude regardless of the energy of the incident -radiation, the tube cannot
differentiate between radiation types. A further limitation is the inability to measure high -radiation intensities due to the
dead time of the tube. This is an insensitive period after each ionization of the gas during which any further incident radiation will not result in a count, and the indicated rate is therefore lower than actual. Typically the dead time will reduce
indicated count rates above about 10 4 to 105 counts per second depending on the characteristic of the tube being used.
Whilst some counters have circuitry which can compensate for this, for accurate measurements ion chamber instruments
are preferred to measure high radiation rates.Counting efficiencies of liquid scintillation counters under ideal conditions
range from about 30% for tritium (a low-energy -emitter), to nearly 100% for phosphorus-32 ( 32P), a high-energy -emitter.
Thus counting efficiencies for -particles are within this range, which is <100%. Some chemical compounds (notably
chlorine compounds) and highly colored samples can interfere with the counting process. This interference, known as
quenching, can be overcome through data correction or through careful sample preparation. In ionization counters the
counting efficiency is the ratio between the number of -particles or photons counted and the number of -particles or
photons of the same type and energy emitted by the -radiation source. Counting efficiencies vary for different isotopes and
sample compositions, and for different scintillation counters. Poor counting efficiency can be caused by an extremely low
energy to light conversion rate (the scintillation efficiency), which, even optimally, will be a small value. It has been

calculated that only some 4% of the energy from a -emission event is converted to light by even the most efficient
scintillation cocktails. Proportional counters and end-window Geiger-Mller tubes have a very high efficiency for all ionizing
particles that reach the fill gas. Nearly every initial ionizing event in the gas will result in avalanches, and thereby an output
signal. However the overall detector efficiency is largely affected by attenuation due to the window or tube body through
which particles have to pass. They are also extremely sensitive to various types of background radiation due to their lack of
discrimination.
Judged from the fact that many of these direct counting experiments, particularly the earlier ones, have yielded results that
are not compatible with one another within the stated uncertainties (see below), it would appear that not all the
measurement uncertainties are accounted for, and therefore the stated uncertainties are likely unrealistically small and
typically are underestimated. Begemann et al. (2001) maintain that many of such experiments are likely plagued by
unrecognized systematic errors. As the nature of these errors is obscure, it is not straightforward to decide which of the,
often mutually exclusive, results of such direct counting experiments is closest to the true value, although most of the postearly-1960s experiments appear to converge on a common value (see below). Furthermore, the presence of unknown
systematic biases makes any averaging dangerous. It is possible that reliable results of careful workers, listing realistic
uncertainties, will not be given the weights they deservethis aside from the question of whether it makes sense to average
numbers that by far do not all agree within the stated uncertainties.
Geological comparisons of methods
A second approach used by secular scientists to determine the 147Sm decay half-life has been to date geological samples
whose ages have also been measured by other methods with presumably more reliable decay constants (Dickin 2005;
Faure and Mensing 2005). This essentially involves circular reasoning, because it is being assumed the other radioisotope
dating methods, principally the U-Pb method, gives the reliable dates to which the 147Sm half-life can be calibrated to bring
the Sm-Nd radioisotope ages into agreement. It should be noted, however, that this is hardly objective, because all the
radioisotope ages of rocks could be wrong due to the underlying unprovable and suspect assumptions on which all the
radioisotope dating methods are based. Nevertheless, a few geological determinations of the 147Sm half-life were made in
the 1970s using components of individual achondrite meteorites (Dickin 2005, 7071; Lugmair 1974; Lugmair, Scheinin, and
Marti 1975; Lugmair and Marti 1977).This method has the disadvantage that it involves geological uncertainties, such as
whether all isotopic systems closed at the same time and remained closed. However, it is claimed to still provide a useful
check on the laboratory determinations by direct physical counting. Nevertheless, this approach entails multi-chronometric
dating of minerals and components in individual meteorites and cross-calibration of different radioisotopic age systems by
adjusting the decay constant of the Sm-Nd system so as to force agreement with the age obtained via another dating
system, usually U-Pb (Begemann et al. 2001). In essence, because the half-life of 238U is claimed to be the most accurately
known of all relevant radionuclides, this usually amounts to expressing ages in units of the half-life of 238U.
Results of the Samarium-147 Decay Determinations
During the last 80 years numerous determinations of the 147Sm decay constant and half-life have been made using these
methods. The results are listed with details in Table 1. The year of the determination versus the value of the half-life is
plotted in Fig. 2. In each case the data points plotted have been color-coded the same to differentiate the values as
determined by the two approaches that have been useddirect counting, and geological comparisons with other
radioisotope dating methods.
Table 1. Determinations of the 147Sm decay rate expressed in terms of the half-life using direct physical counting
experiments, and comparisons of radioisotope ages of terrestrial minerals and rocks, and meteorites.
Determination of the Sm Decay Rate
Date

Half-Life Uncertainty
(Byr)
(Byr)

Method

Instrument

Notes

Source

1936 150

11

direct counting

emulsion plate

Hosemann 1936

1949 100

direct counting

emulsion plate

Picciotto 1949

1954 125

direct counting

ionization chamber

1958 128

direct counting

liquid scintillation

Beard and Kelly 1958

1960 114

direct counting

ionization chamber

Karras
1960

1960 117

direct counting

ionization chamber

Karras 1960

1961 113

direct counting

Graeffe
Nurmia 1961

1961 115

direct counting

ionization chamber

MacFarlane
Kohman 1961

1961 105

direct counting

liquid scintillation

Wright, Steinberg, and


Glendenin 1961

1964 104

direct counting

liquid scintillation

Donhoffer 1964

1965 108

direct counting

liquid scintillation

Valli et al. 1965

1970 106

direct counting

ionization chamber

Gupta and MacFarlane


1970

4 Geiger counter

Beard and Wiedenbeck


1954

and

Nurmia

and
and

1975 106

geological
comparisons

Juvinas
basalticLugmair, Sheinin, and
achondrite meteorite
Marti 1975

1977 106

geological
comparisons

Angra
dos
Reis
achondrite meteorite
Lugmair and Marti 1977

weighted average of
four measures
Lugmair and Marti 1978

1978 106

0.8

direct counting

1987 105

direct counting

1992 123

direct counting

emulsion plate

Martins, Terranova, and


Moreira Correa 1992

2001 106

direct counting

emulsion plate

correction of Martins et
al. 1992
Begemann et al. 2001

2003 117

direct counting

alpha spectrometer

with vacuum chamberKinoshita,


Yokoyama,
(also liquid scintillation) and Nakanashi 2003

2009 107

0.9

direct counting

liquid scintillation

2010 106

direct counting

alpha spectrometer

with vacuum chamber,


Sm metal
Su et al. 2010

2010 107

direct counting

alpha spectrometer

with vacuum chamber,


Sm oxide
Su et al. 2010

Al-Bataina and Jnecke


1987

Kossert et al. 2009

Fig. 2. Plot of each 147Sm half-life determination


versus the year of its determination, color-coded
according to the method of its determination. The
error bars for each determination are also plotted
from the error values listed in Table 1.
Discussion
Results obtained after 1954, and particularly
during the 1960s and the ensuing decade, began
to converge towards a147Sm common half-life
value (see table 1 and fig. 2). In the early 1970s,
when Lugmair and his colleagues began to
develop the decay of 147Sm to 143Nd as a dating
tool (Lugmair 1974), they used only a weighted
average of the last four half-life measurements at
that time, those of Wright, Steinberg, and
Glendenin (1961), Donhoffer (1964), Valli et al.
(1965), and Gupta and MacFarlane (1970)
(Lugmair and Marti 1978). They range from 1.04
to 1.08 1011 years (104 to 108 Byr) with a
weighted mean of 1.060 0.008 1011 years
(106 0.8 Byr) (1 uncertainty). It is worth noting
that the statistical error of this weighted mean
infers that more than 10,000 -decays of 147Sm have occurred to produce this result. Nevertheless, it should be noted that
three of those measurements were made using liquid scintillation counters and one using an ionization chamber (see table
1), all of which have different counting efficiencies, as already discussed. Nevertheless, that 147Sm half-life value has been
adopted by all geochronologists and cosmochronologists since that time (the late 1970s).There have been five more
modern measurements of the 147Sm half-life since the 1970s (table 1). The first by Al-Bataina and Jnecke (1987) with a
value of 1.05 0.04 1011 years (105 4 Byr) agrees very well with the previous direct counting results of Donhoffer (1964),
Gupta and MacFarlane (1970), Valli et al. (1965), and Wright, Steinberg, and Glendenin (1961), as well as with the
geological comparisons with Pb-Pb ages of meteorites by Lugmair (1974), Lugmair, Scheinin, and Marti (1975), and
Lugmair and Marti (1977) (table 1). It is also in close agreement with subsequent determinations by Kossert et al. (2009)
and Su et al. (2010) (table 1). However, the determination by Martins, Terranova, and Moreira Correa (1992) of 1.23 0.04
1011 years (123 4 Byr) is substantially higher than the Al-Bataina and Jnecke (1987) determination of 1.05 0.04
1011 years (105 4 Byr), as is the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) determination of 1.17 0.02 10 11 years
(117 2 Byr) (table 1). These variant results can be easily seen in Fig. 2.Begemann et al. (2001) claimed that because there
is good agreement of ages obtained using the generally accepted 147Sm half-life value of 1.06 0.01 1011 years (106 1
Byr) with ages obtained by the U-Pb (Pb-Pb) systems (for example, Lugmair 1974; Lugmair and Marti 1977; Lugmair,
Scheinin, and Marti 1975), and because the 238U and 235U half-lives are more accurately known, the determination by
Martins, Terranova, and Moreira Correa (1992) of 1.23 0.04 10 11 years (123 4 Byr) should be viewed with caution, and
indeed, that discrepant result most likely is an artifact. Begemann et al. (2001) noted that Martins, Terranova, and Moreira
Correa (1992) reported in their experimental procedure the number of -decays was registered on a thin film of natural
samarium oxide Sm2O3 with an overall uniform thickness of (0.207 0.005) mg/cm2. However, in their subsequent
calculation of the decay constant, Martins, Terranova, and Moreira Correa (1992) apparently used the same thickness as for
pure samarium element instead of correcting for oxygen. If this was a mistake as Begemann et al. (2001) claimed, then the
published half-life value should have been multiplied by the weight ratio Sm2/Sm2O3 = 0.8624, provided the Sm2O3 used was
truly stoichiometric. This would have yielded a 147Sm half-life value of 1.06 10 11 years (106 Byr), which is in very good
agreement with the previous five direct counting measurements (table 1). Begemann et al. (2001) reported that according to
a private communication with one of the authors of the Martins, Terranova, and Moreira Correa (1992) paper, it is very likely
that this explanation is correct, although it is not possible to give a definitive answer. For this and other reasons, Begemann
et al. (2001) stated that they do not share the authors opinion that their result may be considered as the most accurate
measurement of the half-life performed up to now (that is, up to 1992). Nevertheless, Su et al. (2010) performed parallel
determinations using Sm metal and Sm 2O3 (as described above) and obtained similar results of 1.06 0.01 10 11 years
(106 1 Byr) and 1.07 0.01 10 11 years (107 1 Byr) respectively (table 1).What then can be said about the Kinoshita,
Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) determination of 1.17 0.02 10 11years (117 2 Byr) (table 1)? Actually, it can be argued
that their careful experimental approach using multiple repeated measurements with multiple 147Sm sources using both an

alpha spectrometer and a liquid scintillation spectrometer to measure the number of emitted -particles per unit time, plus
their detailed analysis of the counting efficiencies of the instrumental techniques they used, makes their determinations of
the 147Sm half-life more robust than any other determinations. Kossert et al. (2009) subsequently questioned the Kinoshita,
Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) determined 147Sm half-life value because it did not agree with many other determined
values. They also incorrectly asserted that Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) did not measure the isotopic ratio
when their paper clearly reports that they did. These are not valid reasons to dismiss their determined 147Sm half-life value.
Worse still, rather than engage in discussion, Su et al. (2010) simply ignored the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi
(2003) determined147Sm half-life value. Yet the reality is that the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003)
determined 147Sm half-life value of 117 2 Byr is in very good agreement with the four direct counting values of 114 5 Byr
of Karras and Nurmia (1960), 117 5 Byr of Karras (1960), and 115 5 Byr of Gupta and MacFarlane (1970) who all used
ionization chambers for their determinations, and of 113 Byr of Graeffe and Nurmia (1961). However, it seems that the
accepted147Sm half-life value of 106 Byr is determined by majority vote because it is supported by the seven direct
counting determinations of Al-Bataina and Jnecke (1987), Donhoffer (1964), Gupta and MacFarlane (1970), Kossert et al.
(2009), Su et al. (2010), Valli et al. (1965), and Wright, Steinberg, and Glendenin (1961) (table 1).Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and
Nakanashi (2003) were well aware that the 147Sm half-life values reported from 1954 to 1970 showed some scatter between
104 Byr and 128 Byr, so they purposed to design their experimental procedures to thoroughly reevaluate the 147Sm half-life
by means of a developed alpha spectrometer with counting sources prepared in a manner different from those adopted in
those earlier determination experiments. Two kinds of commercially available Sm2O3 reagents of 99.9% purity and two kinds
of commercially available Sm standard solutions for atomic absorption spectroscopy were prepared as four standard Sm
solutions (with known concentrations in g-Sm/g-solution). These were labelled as Sm-A, Sm-B, Sm-C, and Sm-D.
Radioactive and non-radioactive impurities in these Sm solutions were measured by low-level gamma spectrometry, neutron
activation, ICP-MS spectrometry, and thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS), and it was confirmed that the solutions
did not contain any detectable impurities, and that the isotopic composition was natural (that is, 15.0% 147Sm).Kinoshita,
Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) used calibrated solutions of the -radioactive nuclides 210Po, 238U, and241Am as internal
standards in preparation of the counting sources for alpha spectrometry. Known aliquots of each of the four Sm standard
solutions were mixed well with known amounts of the calibrated 210Po, 238U, and 241Am standard solutions to produce ten
kinds of combinations. Each mixture was then evaporated on watch glasses and the amount of Sm on each watch glass
was adjusted to ~100 g, which means that there was approximately 15 g of 147Sm on each watch glass. Alpha
spectrometry, using a silicon surface-barrier detector with an active area of 450 mm 2, was carried out for one to two weeks
for each of the counting sources, and the -disintegration rate of the known amounts of 147Sm was determined by reference
to the -activities of the internal standards.
Measurements of the -disintegration rates of the known amounts of 147Sm were also carried out concurrently by Kinoshita,
Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) using a liquid scintillation spectrometer. However, only the 241Am internal standard
solution was added to each of the four Sm standard solutions. Each mixture was prepared for the measurements and then
10 ml of either the Amersham ACS II scintillation cocktail or the p-terphenyl + POPOP + toluene scintillation cocktail was
added. A blank sample for background liquid scintillation measurement was also prepared in the same way. The liquid
scintillation counting was continued for five hours for each of the counting sources. The same cocktail mixture for
establishing the quench curve was used in determining the counting efficiency.Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003)
then calculated a series of 147Sm half-life values based on the 147Sm -activity of each of the prepared counting sources
calibrated against the -activity of each internal standard measured by the alpha spectrometer, and these are plotted in Fig.
3, along with results from several earlier determinations. They also calculated a series of 147Sm half-life values measured
with the liquid scintillation spectrometer, and these are plotted in Fig. 4. The attached error for each plotted half-life value
included the nominal systematic errors in the calibration of the -emitting standard and in the measurement of the isotopic
abundance of 147Sm, in addition to the statistical error of 1 in -counting. It is quite obvious from Figs. 3 and 4 that
the 147Sm half-life values obtained by Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) using an alpha spectrometer and a liquid
scintillation spectrometer respectively agree very closely with each other within the error bars shown.

Fig. 3. The 147Sm half-life values and their errors determined by alpha spectrometer using a silicon surface-barrier detector
(after Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi [2003]). The values from earlier determinations are indicated by cross symbols,
and values obtained by Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) are indicated by closed symbols. The prepared
sources are referred to as the sample names with the original solution name, the reference standard, source number, and
the measurement method.

Fig. 4. The 147Sm half-life values and their errors determined by liquid scintillation spectrometer (after Kinoshita, Yokoyama,
and Nakanashi [2003]). The prepared sources are depicted as in Fig. 2. The Amersham ACS II scintillation cocktail is shown
as closed symbols, and the p-terphenyl + POPOP + toluene scintillation cocktail is denoted with open symbols.
Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) were also careful to discuss the sources of error and their potential adverse
effects on their 147Sm half-life determination. They admitted that, in alpha spectrometry for a deposited counting source, selfabsorption of -particles in the source is a serious problem. However, the energy loss and absorption of -particles in the
window-layer of the silicon surface-barrier detector (~50 nm) and in the vacuum chamber (<4 Pa) are negligible. As to the
extent of absorption in their alpha spectrometry measurements, they argued that since the thickness of the residue of Sm
and the -emitting standard on the watch glass was less than 15 g/cm2, energy loss and absorption of -particles
from 147Sm and the -emitting standard of the counting source was expected to be negligible. On the other hand, while the
counting efficiency of the liquid scintillation spectrometer is usually high (~100%), the spectrometer has the disadvantages
of high background and poor energy-resolution. Hence, they concluded that in spite of the agreement between the
mean 147Sm half-life value of 115 2 Byr measured with the liquid scintillation spectrometer and the mean 147Sm half-life
value of 117 2 Byr measured with the surface-barrier detector, within the error, the former value was regarded as
supporting data for the latter value because of these described disadvantages.Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003)
determined that the arithmetic mean of the 147Sm half-life values obtained in their experimental work for the 19 counting
sources by alpha spectrometry (fig. 3) was 117 2 Byr, the stated associated error being one standard deviation. This
average 147Sm half-life value was thus about 10% longer than the then, and still, currently adopted value of 106 2 Byr.
However, Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) noted that in the earlier determinations the half-life of 147Sm was
obtained by measuring the 147Sm -activity with a 4 gas-flow counter (Beard and Wiedenbeck 1954), liquid scintillation
spectrometers (Beard and Kelly 1958; Donhoffer 1964; Wright, Steinberg, and Glendenin 1961), and ionization chambers
(Gupta and MacFarlane 1970; MacFarlane and Kohman 1961) from sources with the number of 147Sm atoms in them also
measured. Because the147Sm half-life is then calculated conventionally from the obtained values of the 147Sm -activity and
the number of147Sm atoms, the experimental errors in measuring those two values result in inaccurate determinations of
the 147Sm half-life. For example, impurities in the Sm reagent bring error into the number of 147Sm atoms in the counting
source, and uncertainty in the counting efficiency, self-absorption of the counting source and radioactive impurities in the Sm
reagent bring error into the value of the 147Sm -activity. Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) thus suggested that
the purity of the Sm reagent was not sufficient in the earlier experimental determinations. They also suspected that the
corrections for counting efficiency and self-absorption were not appropriate in the earlier experimental determinations. High
background and poor energy resolution of the liquid scintillation spectrometers used in the earlier experimental
determinations might also have resulted in inaccurate 147Sm half-life values. Since Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi
(2003) were confident that all these sources of error were excluded from their experimental work, in contrast to the earlier
experimental determinations, they concluded that their result of 117 2 Byr for the 147Sm half-life is reliable.As already noted,
Kossert et al. (2009) subsequently questioned the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) result of 117 2 Byr for
the 147Sm half-life. They were confident that they had accurately determined the 147Sm half-life as being 107 0.9 Byr
because they had expended great effort to evaluate the liquid scintillation counting efficiency to be 100%, because the
number of 147Sm atoms in the Sm reagent had been measured by means of ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma optical
emission spectrometry) using a reference standard from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and because
their result agreed well with most of the other measurement results and the recommended value. However, as has been
already noted, a significant number of other measurement results also disagree with the recommended 147Sm half-life value
of 106 2 Byr and are closer to the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) result of 117 2 Byr. Furthermore, while
Kossert et al. (2009) asserted that Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) measured quite low activities in their
experiments, they incorrectly accused Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) of not measuring the Sm isotopic ratio
when they clearly stated that they did. Such an error would cast doubt on the Kossert et al. (2009) assessment of the
experimental work of Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003), especially as Kossert et al. (2009) admitted they did not
have enough information on the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) measurement details, in particular on the
treatment of the background and tailing of the -peaks in their measured spectra. But Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi
(2003) did provide measurement details, as already described, and the -peaks in their spectra measured by alpha
spectrometer are very narrow, sharp, and distinct with a short tail and very low background, as illustrated in their report. So
the reality is that Kossert et al. (2009) questioned the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) result primarily because it
didnt agree well with most of the other recent measurement results and the recommended value, even though Kinoshita,
Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) did 19 alpha spectrometer determinations using combinations of four standard Sm
solutions and three internal standards (fig. 3) backed up by 24 liquid scintillation spectrometer determinations yielding
essentially the same results (fig. 4).On the other hand, Su et al. (2010) simply ignored the Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and
Nakanashi (2003) determined 147Sm half-life value of 117 2 Byr after an introductory passing reference to it, and simply
asserted that the absolute half-life they had determined, 106 1 Byr (Sm metal) and 107 1 Byr (Sm 2O3), is consistent
with the recommended value of 106 Byr. Yet Su et al. (2010) used a silicon surface-barrier detector coupled to an alpha
spectrometer to similarly obtain their 147Sm -activity peaks, just as Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) had done.
And Su et al. (2010) tabulated the uncertainty components in both their 147Sm -activity measurements and their
measurements of the number of 147Sm atoms in their counting sources, which together summed to 1.1% of the 147Sm half-life
value, close to the figure of 0.9% uncertainty in the Kossert et al. (2009) determination, but considerably less than the ~2%
obtained by Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003). It would thus seem that the major reason for the difference
between the Su et al. (2010) and Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) results may be due to the different Sm
reagents used and the different procedures in preparing the counting sources.Su et al. (2010) used 147Sm-enriched metal
and Sm2O3 powder obtained from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and did not analyze them for purity, although they did
perform isotope dilution mass spectrometry (IDMS) to check the 147Sm abundance, whereas Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and
Nakanashi (2003) simply used commercially available Sm 2O3 reagents and analyzed them for both impurities and the 147Sm
abundance. Then Su et al. (2010) used vacuum evaporation (Sm metal) and sputtering (Sm 2O3) to deposit the Sm reagents
onto glass substrates to a thickness of about 250 g/cm2 before checking the uniformity of 147Sm distribution in these
prepared counting sources by exposure to plastic emulsions. On the other hand, Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi
(2003) simply evaporated the prepared mixtures of Sm standard solutions and internal standards onto glass substrates
adjusted to ~15 g of 147Sm to ensure calculated amounts of -particles would be measured from the 147Sm and internal
standards in these prepared counting sources. However, neither the choice of Sm reagents nor the procedures in preparing
the counting sources seem to be significantly different between these two 147Sm half-life determinations, even though
Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) stated they prepared their counting sources in a manner different from earlier
experiments. Apart from Su et al. (2010) not analyzing their chosen Sm reagents for purity, which would not be expected to
be significant given the source of those reagents, the only major difference appears to have been the thicknesses of the

counting sources and therefore the numbers of 147Sm atoms in them, resulting in only ~150 counts in the central channel of
the -peaks obtained by Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003), the quite low activities in their experiments referred to
by Kossert et al. (2009), compared to the 500600 counts in the central channel of the -peaks obtained by Su et al. (2010).
Yet in spite of the lower -activity, it could be argued that the thinner counting source should have yielded the more accurate
determination of the 147Sm half-life value, because even though the thicker counting source would contain more 147Sm atoms
and therefore emit more -particles, the thicker the counting source the more self-absorption of -particles there could be
within the counting source thus significantly reducing the determined 147Sm half-life value.If indeed the thicknesses of the
counting sources and thus the self-absorption of -particles in them have resulted in the experimentally determined values
of the 147Sm half-life being up to 10% or more different, then this has profound significance on the determinations of the SmNd radioisotope ages of rocks, minerals, and meteorites. Without certainty as to whether the present 147Sm half-life (decay
rate) has been accurately determined experimentally by direct counting, and the assumption of constant radioisotope decay
rates at the currently determined values, the Sm-Nd radioisotope ages calculated by uniformitarians cannot be accurately
known, no matter how accurate are the measured 147Sm/144Nd and 143Nd/144Nd ratios in rocks, minerals, and meteorites.In
any case, the adopted 147Sm half-life value of 106 0.8 Byr had essentially been already settled on the basis of the
geological comparisons done on two meteorites by Lugmair, Scheinin, and Marti (1975) and Lugmair and Marti (1977) who
adjusted these meteorites Sm-Nd ages to agree with their Pb-Pb ages (Begemann et al. 2001; Dickin 2005, 7071).
Lugmair (1974) compared the Sm-Nd isochron age he obtained for the Juvinas eucrite meteorite with the similar Rb-Sr
isochron age obtained on the same meteorite by Allgre, Birck, and Fourcade (1973). However, it was Lugmair, Scheinin,
and Marti (1975) whom Dickin (2005, 7071) credited for the Sm-Nd isochron age of 4.56 0.08 Byr for Juvinas that is in
agreement with the Pb-Pb isochron age for the solar system and thus confirming the adopted value of 106 Byr for the 147Sm
half-life (Dickin 2005, 115118; Patterson 1956). This though begs the question how do they know that these so-called
isochrons are not mixing lines which have no time significance? It should also be noted that Dickin (2005, 71, fig. 4.1
caption) wrote that the Nd isotope ratios are affected by the choice of normalizing factor for mass fractionation, a reminder
that the agreement of this Sm-Nd isochron age with the Pb-Pb isochron age was only achieved by making choices of
suitable factors. Subsequently, Lugmair and Marti (1977) obtained a Sm-Nd isochron age of 4.55 0.04 Byr for the Angra
dos Reis (ADOR) angrite meteorite based on analyses of phosphate and pyroxene mineral separates, which they made
sure agreed with the Pb-Pb model age of 4.555 0.005 Byr for ADOR obtained by Tatsumoto, Knight, and Allgre (1973).
Lugmair and Galer (1992) later refined that Pb-Pb model age for ADOR to 4.55780 0.00042 Byr based on analyzing a
pyroxene mineral separate, which they then used to suggest what the 147Sm half-life should be in order to make the Sm-Nd
isochron age for this meteorite agree exactly with this Pb-Pb model age.Lugmair and Marti (1977) and Lugmair and Galer
(1992) justified their geological comparisons to adjust the 147Sm half-life value so that the Sm-Nd isochron ages of the
Juvinas and Angra dos Reis meteorites agreed with their Pb-Pb isochron and model ages on the basis that these
meteorites Pb-Pb ages were more precise because the decay constants of the parent 238U and 235U are known more
precisely. And Lugmair and Marti (1978) added to the adoption of that 147Sm half-life value of 106 Byr by choosing the most
precise results from only four of the earlier direct counting experiments (see table 1) that would give the desired weighted
average value for the 147Sm half-life of 106 0.8 Byr that has been adopted by all geo- and cosmochronologists since that
time (Begemann et al. 2001). This was also the basis for Begemann et al. (2001) seeking to correct the Martins,
Terranova, and Moreira Correa (1992) determined higher 147Sm half-life value to bring it into agreement with this
adopted 147Sm half-life value calibrated against the U-Pb radioisotope system, and for Kossert et al. (2009) and Su et al.
(2010) dismissing and ignoring respectively the more thoroughly determined but higher 147Sm half-life value of Kinoshita,
Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003).However, the U-Pb gold standard dating method has come under much scrutiny in the
two last decades. Ludwig (2000) has demonstrated that, although almost universally ignored, the effect of the errors in the U
decay constants on U-Pb concordia-Pb-Pb intercept ages are significant, being a 4.5 Myr error for a 500 Myr age, which
amounts to almost a 1% error. The U-Pb method also depends on the crucial 238U/235U ratio, but discrepancies and variations
have been found recently between the 238U/235U ratio in U-bearing terrestrial minerals and rocks and the 238U/235U ratio in
meteorites (Brennecka and Wadhwa 2012; Hiess et al 2012). Much earlier, Apt et al. (1978) had reported that the 235U/238U
ratio in uranium ores in Canada, Brazil, Zaire, and Australia varied from 0.7107 to 0.7144 when the recognized value is 0.72.
Such variations in uranium ores have been further documented by Bopp et al. (2009). These discrepancies and variations
remain unexplained, especially in the context of the 238U and 235U decay constants and half-lives. Furthermore, the fact that
there are these variations in the crucial 238U/235U ratio in terrestrial minerals and rocks on which the U-Pb dating gold
standard depends, which has been used to recalibrate Sm-Nd isochron ages to determine the 147Sm half-life and decay
constant, only underscores that these radioisotope methods cannot provide the absolute invariable dates they are so
confidently proclaimed to provide.In any case, there is the additional assumption in all the radioisotope dating methods of
having to know the original concentrations of the daughter and index isotopes which is very significant in the U-Pb method
because the original concentrations are assumed not to be zero, in contrast to the K-Ar method. Yet there must be great
uncertainty as to what those initial values were in the unobserved past, despite the isochron and concordia techniques
attempting to negate the necessity for knowing those initial values, and despite the assumption ever since Patterson (1956)
and Tatsumoto, Knight, and Allgre (1973) that the Pb isotopic composition of the troilite (FeS) in the Canyon Diablo iron
meteorite represents the initial primordial Pb of the earth and the solar system (Dickin 2005; Faure and Mensing 2005).
Thus the U-Pb method should not be used as a standard to determine other parent radioisotope half-lifes and decay
constants.Indeed, it would remain prudent to be very careful with these geological comparison methods for two other
reasons. First, there are significant flaws in the basic assumptions on which all the radioisotope dating methods depend, not
least being the assumption that the decay rates of the parent radioisotopes have always been constant in the past at todays
measured decay rates. Second, the U-Pb method relies primarily on -decay, as does the Sm-Nd method. Yet both Austin
(2005) and Snelling (2005) have reported that the parent U and Sm -decaying radioisotopes seem to yield systematically
different U-Pb and Sm-Nd ages for some earth rocks using the same samples with essentially the same methodology.
Additionally, they suggested the pattern of differences was potentially related to the parent radioisotopes atomic weights
and half-lives, which could be indicative of parent radioisotopes decay rates having not been constant in the past but
instead were substantially faster. Furthermore, these different radioisotope ages yielded by the same earth rocks are often
widely divergent, even up 100200% different, which is such a huge divergence that it renders these dating methods highly
suspect, even if the differences in the determinations of the half-lives of the parent radioisotopes seem miniscule and
therefore trivial by comparison. However, it was considered prudent to still document here these seemingly miniscule
differences in half-life values, because they may be indicative of other underlying factors at work (as already discussed
briefly), and they can still lead to very significant discrepancies in the derived radioisotope ages that might otherwise appear
to be acceptably accurate to uniformitarians.Nevertheless, the age comparisons on meteorites used the U-Pb method back
in the 1970s to settle, apparently beyond any subsequent dispute, the determination of the 147Sm decay half-life at 106 0.8
Byr, which is within the range determined by many of the physical direct counting experiments by several techniques (see

table 1 and fig. 2). Yet the robustness of the 10% higher 117 2 Byr 147Sm half-life value determined by Kinoshita,
Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003) might even indicate that the other higher 147Sm half-life values determined in some earlier
experiments (see table 1 and fig. 2) should not be simply dismissed as due to poorer experimental methodology or
equipment. In any case, Sm-Nd age calculations are now ultimately calibrated against the U-Pb method, and thus the 147Sm
half-life value of 106 0.8 Byr has been adopted. However, this U-Pb gold standard depends on whether the U decay
constants are accurately and precisely known, and on the crucial 238U/235U ratio. Yet discrepancies and variations have been
found between the 238U/235U ratio in U-bearing terrestrial minerals and rocks and the 238U/235U ratio in meteorites which
remain unexplained. This only serves to highlight that if the Sm-Nd dating method has been calibrated against the U-Pb
gold standard with its own uncertainties, then the claimed accurately-determined 147Sm decay rate cannot be absolute,
especially given the evidence in some earth rocks of past higher radioisotope decay rates and the evidence that some direct
counting experiments yielded 10% or more higher 147Sm half-life values. Yet even though it is to be expected these half-life
measurements vary by 10% or so because of the difficulties in measuring such a long half-life, the resultant calculated
radioisotope ages end up being an order of magnitude or more different from one another, which is far too inaccurate in
providing the absolute ages required by uniformitarians. Thus without an accurately known 147Sm decay half-life, accurate
Sm-Nd radioisotope ages cannot be accurately determined. Therefore, Sm-Nd dating cannot be used to reject the youngearth creationist timescale, especially as current radioisotope dating methodologies are at best hypotheses based on
extrapolating current measurements and observations back into an assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Conclusions
There have been numerous attempts to determine the 147Sm decay half-life in the last 80 years by two primary techniques
used in direct physical counting experimentsionization chambers and liquid scintillation counters, and by radioisotope age
comparisons using two meteorites. The determinations since 1960 have converged with close agreement on the 147Sm halflife value of 106 0.8 Byr, which has since the 1970s been adopted for standard use by the uniformitarian geological
community. This adopted 147Sm half-life value is the weighted average of four determinations by direct counting experiments
in the period 19611970, confirmed by geological comparisons in the 1970s in which the 147Sm half-life value was adjusted
in order to recalibrate (or force, essentially by circular reasoning) the Sm-Nd isochron ages of two meteorites to be the same
as their Pb-Pb isochron and model ages.However, even though this 147Sm half-life value of 106 0.8 Byr has been
universally adopted by the geochronology and cosmochronology community since Lugmair and Marti (1978) proposed it
(Begemann et al. 2001), the more recent direct counting experiments by Kinoshita, Yokoyama, and Nakanashi (2003)
determined the 147Sm half-life value was 10% or more longer at 117 2 Byr. They achieved this by using four standard Sm
solutions with internal -radioactive standards in 19 alpha spectrometer and 24 ionization chamber determinations, making it
the most thorough and comprehensive effort to the determine the 147Sm half-life. It would appear that the thinner counting
sources they used, while resulting in low -activities being measured, greatly reduced the counting uncertainty due to selfabsorption of the emitted -particles. So in spite of being rejected or ignored, this 117 2 Byr value for the 147Sm half-life,
which agrees with some earlier determinations, may well be highly significant and more reliable than the adopted value.Yet
even though there is close agreement between many determined values, the 147Sm half-life value obtained by recalibrating
the Sm-Nd isochron ages for two meteorites with their Pb-Pb isochron and model ages has been given preference over the
values obtained by direct counting experiments which directly measure 147Sm decay, and so are independent of all the
assumptions involved with the radioisotope dating methods. Indeed, model dependent results should not take precedence
over the direct experimental evidence.Since the age comparisons on two meteorites used the U-Pb method to determine
the 147Sm decay half-life, all Sm-Nd age calculations are thus ultimately calibrated against the U-Pb method. However, this
U-Pb gold standard depends on having precisely determined 238U and 235U decay constants, as well as on the
crucial 238U/235U ratio being known and constant. Yet there are still uncertainties in the measured U decay constants, and
discrepancies and variations have been found between the 238U/235U ratio in U-bearing terrestrial minerals and rocks, and
the 238U/235U ratio in meteorites. These discrepancies and variations remain unexplained. This only serves to highlight that if
the Sm-Nd dating method has been calibrated against the U-Pb gold standard with its own uncertainties, then it cannot be
absolute.Furthermore, there is evidence that nuclear decay rates have not been constant in the past. Thus without an
accurately known 147Sm decay half-life, accurate Sm-Nd radioisotope ages cannot be accurately determined. Therefore, SmNd dating cannot be used to reject the young-earth creationist timescale, especially as current radioisotope dating
methodologies are at best hypotheses based on extrapolating current measurements and observations back into an
assumed deep time history for the cosmos.
Acknowledgments
The invaluable help of my research assistant Lee Anderson Jr. in compiling and plotting the data in the color-coded age
diagrams is acknowledged. The three reviewers are also acknowledged for their helpful comments and input, though the
final content of this paper is solely my responsibility. Our production assistant Laurel Hemmings is also especially thanked
for her painstaking work in preparing this paper for publication.
DATING RESULTS
Significance of Highly Discordant Radioisotope Dates for Precambrian Amphibolites in Grand Canyon, USA
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on April 14, 2010
Abstract
The Brahma amphibolites of the Precambrian
crystalline basement of Grand Canyon were
originally erupted as basalt lavas and
subsequently suffered high-grade regional
metamorphism. Composed predominantly of
hornblende
with
minor
subordinate
plagioclase, the collected samples showed no
signs of post-metamorphic alteration. K-Ar
radioisotope analyses yielded a wide range of
model ages, even for adjacent samples from the same outcrop of the same original lava flow. No statistically viable K-Ar
isochron age could be obtained because of so much scatter in the data, which is most likely due to 40Ar* mobility within
these rocks. By contrast, the Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotope systems yielded good, statistically consistent, isochron
ages of 1240 84 Ma, 1655 40 Ma, and 1883 53 Ma, respectively. These are obviously discordant with one another and
with published ages, but there are no clear reasons to reject any of them as unreliable or invalid. One explanation for the
discordance is that the decay rates of the parent radioisotopes were different relative to their presently measured rates at

some time during the time interval since these rocks formed. We observe that the a-decaying U and Sm yield older ages
than the -decaying Rb, and the heavier atomic weight U yields a Pb-Pb age older than the Sm-Nd age. This pattern in the
discordances thus may provide clues into the physics responsible for time variations in the decay process. Obviously, if
decay rates have not been constant, radioisotope decay methods do not yield valid absolute ages for rocks.
Shop Now
This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism, pp. 407424
(2008) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh.
Keywords: Grand Canyon, Precambrian crystalline basement, Brahma amphibolites, hornblende, plagioclase, whole-rock
chemical analyses, whole-rock K-Ar model ages, whole-rock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb isochron ages, discordancy,
accelerated radioisotope decay, half-lives, mode of decay, atomic weights
Introduction
The assumption of constant radioisotope decay rates has undergirded the interpretation of all radioisotope data and the
establishment of the absolute dates in the uniformitarian geologic timescale. Anomalous radioisotope dates that do not fit
the chosen timescale are usually explained by open-system behavior and/or inheritance, and then discarded. Because most
anomalous radioisotope dates are not published, it is difficult to know just what proportion of dating analyses in
geochronology laboratories are discarded. Furthermore, rock samples are often only dated using the one radioisotope
method. Thus, it is difficult to quantify just how significant are the few multiple radioisotope concordances published in the
literature, and how reliable and consistent is the apparent overall trend of progressively decreasing dates from lower strata
in the geologic record through to upper strata. However, the impression gained from a detailed examination of the primary
radioisotope dating systems1 is that, if the absolute dates of the uniformitarian timescale were ignored, and both accepted
and anomalous radioisotope dates were considered, where more than one radioisotope system has been utilized to date
specific rock strata, radioisotope discordances would be in the majority. That such discordances are often the case has
already been discussed,2 and has been thoroughly tested and documented on some specific strata.3, 4, 5, 6Furthermore, it is
highly significant that there are no obvious geologic or geochemical explanations evident for these discordances.7 Thus, if it
werent for the assumption that the approved radioisotope dates are acceptable because they correlate with the
conventional uniformitarian timescale, then all the discordant isochron ages could actually be anomalous. Using the same
reasoning, therefore, there is no guarantee that even where radioisotope concordances do occur the resultant dates are
somehow objectively correct. In any case, the ages derived from the radioisotope systems should only be regarded as
maximum ages. The prolific evidence of open-system behavior and mixing and/or inheritance suggests that the true ages of
the strata may be considerably, or even drastically, younger. This is intolerable for uniformitarians, as their evolutionary
timescale is crucial to their paradigm. These endemic problems with the radioisotope dating methods demonstrate that the
conventional interpretation of radioisotope dating is not secure, and also provide evidence that indicates a much younger
earth.A very relevant example is the stark contrast between the U-Pb radioisotope age of 1500 Ma for the zircon grains in
the Jemez granodiorite of New Mexico and the He (derived from U decay) diffusion age of the same zircon grains of only
about 6,000 years.8, 9, 10, 11 This huge discrepancy can be explained if the rate of 238U decay was grossly accelerated at
some time(s) in the past. A proposed test of this explanation is to document whether there is a systematic pattern in the
discordances between the different radioisotope systems. If there is a systematic pattern, it may reflect differing amounts of
such accelerated nuclear decay in the different radioisotope systems over the same real time interval, due to their different
modes of decay and parent half-lives.12 The amphibolites in the Precambrian basement of the Grand Canyon were chosen
for this study for three reasons. First, the Grand Canyon is a well known and well studied area that contains a good, clear
strata cross-section representative of much of earth history. Second, as metamorphosed basalts, amphibolites consist of a
very simple two-component system, essentially just the minerals plagioclase and hornblende, which simplifies the
geochemistry of radioisotope systematics. And third, being Precambrian, these rocks should have accumulated large
enough amounts of the radioisotope decay products to produce isochrons with good statistics.
Geology of the Precambrian Basement Metamorphics in Grand Canyon
The east-west trending Grand Canyon presents spectacular exposures of the Lower Proterozoic (Paleoproterozoic) rocks of
the crystalline basement beneath the Colorado Plateau.13 In the Upper Granite Gorge, these rocks are continuously
exposed from river mile 78 to 120 (downstream from Lees Ferry), while there are discontinuous exposures in the Middle
Granite Gorge from mile 127 to mile 137 (fig. 1).14, 15 Powell was the first to identify the Precambrian granite and Grand
Canyon schist.16 Walcott identified Significance of Highly Discordant Radioisotope Dates for Precambrian Amphibolites in
Grand Canyon, USA the Vishnu terrane as a complex of schist and gneiss.17Subsequently, Campbell and Maxson
identified different mappable units called the Vishnu series18 and Brahma series.19 However, Campbell and
Maxson20 underestimated the structural complexities and probably overestimated the stratigraphic thickness when they
proposed that the combined stratigraphic sequence of these metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks was 816 km thick.
This stratigraphic approach was called into question by Ragan and Sheridan,23 and subsequently Brown, Babcock, Clark,
and Livingston24 also emphasized the complex deformational features, so they lumped all of the metasedimentary and
metavolcanic rocks together under the name Vishnu Complex, the approach continued by Babcock,25 who used the term
Vishnu Metamorphic Complex.

Fig. 1. Simplified geologic map of Paleoproterozoic (lower Proterozoic) rocks in the Upper and Middle Granite Gorges,
Grand Canyon, northern Arizona (after Ilg et al.21, Karlstrom et al.22). Form lines outside the Paleoproterozoic exposures
show their interpretation of the trace of the regional foliation on the map surface. The transect is divided into metamorphic
domains that are generally separated by shear zones. Sample locations are marked.More recent detailed field mapping,
based on the approach that recognizes the need to pursue simultaneously both tectonic and stratigraphic subdivisions of
these Lower Proterozoic rocks, has resulted in a new geologic map (fig. 1). Thus, Ilg et al.26 and Karlstrom et al.27 have
proposed the new name of Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite for the entire sequence of metamorphosed volcanic and
sedimentary rocks in the Grand Canyon. Furthermore, the new names assigned to the mappable rock units in the Upper
and Middle Granite Gorges (fig. 1), as well as the Lower Granite Gorge, are Brahma Schist for the mafic metavolcanic rocks
(after the Brahma series of Campbell and Maxson28), the Rama Schist for the felsic metavolcanic rocks, and Vishnu
Schist for the metamorphosed sedimentary rocks. This designation of only the metamorphosed sedimentary rocks as the
Vishnu Schist is probably that which was originally intended by Walcott,29 recommended by Noble and Hunter30 (their
Vishnu schist), and proposed by Campbell and Maxson31 (their Vishnu series). These metasedimentary and metavolcanic
rocks of the Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite make up about half of the exposed rocks in the Granite Gorges of Grand
Canyon, the rest being intrusive rocks (granite, granodiorite, tonalites, and gabbros). Descriptive metamorphic rock names
are used for the rocks seen in outcrop and in thin section, and the original sedimentary or volcanic protoliths are inferred
from rock compositions and a limited number of primary structures that have survived the deposition and metamorphism.
Primary structures such as relict pillows and graded bedding show that the original sedimentary rocks were locally deposited
on a volcanic sequence, and that the mafic and felsic metavolcanic rocks are commonly interlayered. However, because
similar volcanogenic sequences could have been deposited at different times or in separate basins, and such differences
would be difficult to unravel due to the subsequent tectonism, this terminology can be considered mainly as lithologic, rather
than necessarily stratigraphic.The Rama Schist consists of quartzofeldspathic schist and gneiss with locally preserved
phenocrysts of quartz and feldspar, and possible relict lapilli, that suggest a felsic to intermediate volcanic origin.32, 33 It is
dominated by massive fine-grained quartzofeldspathic rocks, but also contains metarhyolites and interlayered micaceous
quartzofeldspathic schists and gneisses. The Rama Schist is commonly complexly injected with pegmatite and contains
leucocratic layers that may in part reflect preferential partial melting of these rocks due to the peak metamorphic conditions
of about 720 C and 6 kbar.34, 35 It is also locally interlayered with the mafic Brahma Schist.The Brahma Schist consists of
amphibolite, hornblende-biotite-plagioclase schist, biotite plagioclase schist, orthoamphibole-bearing schist and gneiss, and
metamorphosed sulfide deposits.36, 37 The petrology and geochemistry of Brahma Schist amphibolites were studied by
Clark,38, 39 who divided the amphibolites and mafic schists into five groups based on field occurrence and mineral
assemblage: (1) anthophyllite-bearing and cordierite-anthophyllite-bearing rocks (orthoamphibole schist), (2) early
amphibolites, (3) the Granite Park mafic body (Lower Granite Gorge area), (4) hornblende-bearing dikes, and (5) tremolitebearing dikes. Ilg et al.40 agreed with Clarks interpretation that the orthoamphibole-bearing (group 1) rocks are
metamorphosed, hydrothermally altered, mafic marine volcanic rocks, and that the early amphibolites (group 2) are
metamorphosed basalts and basaltic tuffs. Clarks groups 1 and 2 compose the supracrustal Brahma Schist, following
Campbell and Maxsons original usage of the term.41Massive amphibolites (part of Clarks group 2) make up 3040% of the
Brahma Schist. This unit does not typically preserve primary igneous features, but relict pillow structures are present at a
number of localities. Massive amphibolites occur in units several meters to tens of meters thick, and are composed of
plagioclase
and
hornblende,
plus
subordinate
quartz,
biotite,
clinopyroxene,
and
epidote
(plus

accessories).42, 43 Furthermore, these massive amphibolites have a tholeiitic character and trace element compositions
consistent with an island-arc environment. The biotite-plagioclase and hornblende-biotite-plagioclase schists (the remainder
of Clarks group 2) make up approximately 50% of the Brahma Schist in the Upper Granite Gorge. Although strong tectonic
layering has mostly obscured primary igneous textures, in several locations original textures are preserved, such as
subangular quartz + plagioclase + biotite fragments entrained in an amphibolitic matrix, which suggests that some of these
rocks may have been volcaniclastic breccias. Interlayered with the biotite schists are discontinuous meter-scale lenses of
garnet + diopside + epidote + calcite rocks, the protoliths of these lenses possibly being relatively thin layers of calcareous
shale or algal mats interbedded with submarine sediments.44 The Brahma Schist also contains exposures of
orthoamphibole-bearing rocks (Clarks group 1) (fig. 1). They are interpreted to be hydrothermally altered, mafic marine
volcanic rocks.45The presence of relict pillow basalt, orthoamphibolite rocks, and associated sulfide mineralization indicates
that the Brahma Schist was a product of dominantly mafic submarine volcanism. The Rama and Brahma metavolcanic
schists can be complexly interlayered so that contact relationships support variable relative ages between mafic and
intermediate metavolcanic rocks. However, in the Upper Granite Gorge, the Rama Schist is underneath and older than the
Brahma Schist.The Vishnu Schist consists of pelitic schist and quartz-biotite-muscovite schists that are interpreted as
metamorphosed sandstones and mudstones, with numerous calc-silicate lenses and pods that are interpreted to be
concretions.46, 47 Several-kilometer thick sections of meta-lithic-arenite and metagreywacke sequences exhibit rhythmic
banded (centimeter-to meter-scale) coarser and finer layers, with locally well-preserved bedding and graded
bedding48, 49 suggesting deposition as submarine turbidites. The original grain sizes in the Vishnu Schist metasedimentary
rocks probably ranged from medium-grained sand to silt and clay, while conglomerates are conspicuously absent, all of
which suggests a lack of high-energy proximal facies. The preserved relict graded bedding, association with metavolcanic
rocks containing pillow structures, lack of coarse sediments, and geochemical data50indicate that these Vishnu
metasedimentary units were deposited in submarine conditions on the flanks of eroding oceanic islands (an oceanic islandarc environment). The preserved graded bedding indicates that the Vishnu Schist was deposited stratigraphically above the
Brahma Schist, and the accessible exposures indicate that the contact between them is generally concordant, although
there is some interlayering of the contact in some places.These Brahma amphibolites have not previously been dated using
radioisotope methods. Metamorphic rocks in general are not easy to date with radioisotopes, because often it is not readily
apparent whether the results represent the date of the metamorphic event or the date of the cooling and crystallization of the
original rock. However, by U-Pb dating what is believed to be original zircon grains in metamorphosed felsic volcanic units
within the Brahma and Rama Schists, it has been proposed that the original basalt lavas were erupted between 1741 and
1750 Ma.51, 52 The subsequent metamorphism of these basalt lavas to form these Brahma amphibolites is believed to have
occurred between 1690 and 1710 Ma, based on U-Pb dating of monazite, xenotime, and titanite (sphene) in the overlying
Vishnu Schist and underlying Rama Schist, assuming that these minerals formed, or were radioisotopically reset, during the
metamorphism.53, 54
Fig. 2. Outcropping amphibolites below the Tapeats
Sandstone and the Great Unconformity beside the
Colorado River, just upstream of Blacktail Canyon (see fig.
1). Seven samples were collected along the river
here.Twenty-seven Brahma Schist amphibolite samples
were collected in the Upper and Middle Granite Gorges
(with a Scientific Research and Collecting Permit issued by
the Grand Canyon National Park): (1) three samples from
the Cottonwood Canyon area, (2) nine samples from the
Clear Creek area, including seven samples from a single 50
m long and 2 m wide amphibolite body just upstream from
the mouth of Clear Creek, (3) one sample from the
Cremation Creek area, (4) one sample from near the mouth
of Pipe Creek, (5) seven samples from outcrops just
upstream of Blacktail Canyon (fig. 2), and (6) six samples
from outcrops along the Colorado River between miles
126.5 and 129. All these locations are marked on Fig. 1. The small tabular
body of amphibolite near the mouth of Clear Creek was intensively sampled
because it appeared to show mineralogical variation through its width,
perhaps suggesting that it may have been a thin sill rather than a lava flow
(fig. 3). Otherwise, all the other samples were of massive amphibolite. In the
area just upstream of Blacktail Canyon, there was clear field evidence that
the amphibolites represented a series of basaltic lava flows, there being
well-defined competent layers 310 meters thick in succession along the
outcrop separated by structural breaks accompanied by leaching of the rock
(possibly paleoweathering), or in one instance by what appeared to be a thin
inter-flow sandstone layer (fig. 4). This sequence of metamorphosed basalt
flows was thus systematically sampled.
Chemical and Radioisotope Analyses
Fig. 3. A single amphibolite body (dark rock through the center of the
photograph in the erosion gully) that likely represents an original basalt lava
flow, just upstream of Clear Creek (see fig. 1). Seven samples were
collected from this outcrop and yielded widely divergent K-Ar model
ages.Split by hammering or cutting with a rock saw, a portion of each sample
was thin sectioned for subsequent petrographic analysis. Approximately 100
gram splits of each sample were then dispatched to the Amdel laboratory in
Adelaide, South Australia, where each sample was crushed and pulverized.
Whole-rock analyses were undertaken by total fusion and digestion of each
powdered sample followed by ICPOES (inductively coupled plasma-optical
emission spectrometry) for major and minor elements, and ICP-MS
(inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry) for trace and rare earth
elements. Separate analyses for Fe as FeO were also undertaken by wet
chemistry methods that were able to indicate any sample loss on ignition, primarily as H 2O or carbonate (given off as CO2).A

second representative set of 100 gram pieces of each sample was sent to the K-Ar dating laboratory at Activation
Laboratories in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, for whole-rock K-Ar dating under the direction of the laboratory manager, Dr.
Yakov Kapusta. After crushing of the whole-rock samples and pulverizing them, the concentrations of K (weight %) were
measured by the ICP technique. The 40K concentrations (ppm) were then calculated from the terrestrial isotopic abundance
using these measured concentrations of K. The concentrations in ppm of 40Ar*, the supposed radiogenic 40Ar, were derived
from isotope dilution measurements with a noble gas mass spectrometer.55, 56
Fig. 4. Outcrop of amphibolite just
upstream of Blacktail Canyon (see
fig. 1). The vertical layering in the
amphibolite appears to parallel the
original layering of successive
horizontal basalt flows that were
subsequently tilted. The rock
hammer and brightly colored roll of
tape mark the top and bottom of
what was an original basalt
flow.Finally, a third representative
set of 100 gram pieces of each
sample was sent to the PRISE
laboratory in the Research School
of Earth Sciences at the Australian
National University in Canberra,
Australia, where under the direction
of Dr. Richard Armstrong, wholerock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb
isotopic analyses were undertaken.
After the sample pieces were
crushed
and
pulverized,
the
powders
were
dissolved
in
concentrated hydrofluoric acid, followed by standard chemical separation procedures for each of these radioisotope
systems. Once separated, the elements in each radioisotope system were loaded by standard procedures onto metal
filaments to be used in the solid source thermal ionization mass spectrometer (TIMS), the stateof- the-art technology in use
in this laboratory. Sr isotopes were measured using the mass fractionation correction 86Sr/88Sr = 0.1194, and the 87Sr/86Sr
ratios were reported normalized to the NBS standard SRM 987 value of 0.710207. Nd isotopes were corrected for mass
fractionation using146Nd/144Nd = 0.7219 and were normalized to the present-day143Nd/144Nd value of 0.51268 for standard
BCR-1 (a Columbia River basalt, Washington, sample). Pb isotope ratios were normalized to NBS standard SRM 981 for
mass fractionation.
Results
The whole-rock major and selected trace element data for all 27 amphibolite samples are listed in Table 1. These analytical
results are consistent with these amphibolites being tholeiitic basalts that were metamorphosed without any significant
chemical alteration (losses or additions). This can especially be seen in the high MgO, Cr, and Ni contents of the amphibolite
in the small body near Clear Creek, which is also high in rare earth elements. Otherwise the range of 43.8%51.2% SiO 2 is
typical of the variations found in basalt lavas. Especially noteworthy are the low K 2O contents (0.11%1.96%) of these
amphibolites, which are consistent with the absence of any pervasive alteration of the plagioclase in them to sericite,
confirmed by petrographic examination (fig. 5). This is particularly relevant to the suitability of these amphibolites for K-Ar
radioisotope dating. Any sericitic alteration of the plagioclase would represent post-formation hydrothermal alteration with
introduced K2O, so the K2O in these amphibolites is, thus, of the primary in situ origin required for valid K-Ar radioisotope
dating. Equally significant are the wide variations in the contents of Rb, Sr, Sm, Nd, U, and Pb in these amphibolites, which
make them extremely suitable for radioisotope dating using the isochron method, in spite of the simplicity of their dominant
mineralogy (plagioclase + hornblende biotite).The results of the K-Ar radioisotope analyses on these Brahma amphibolite
samples are summarized in Table 2. The K-Ar model ages were calculated for each sample analyzed using the standard
model-age equation, which assumes that 10.5% of the 40K atoms in each sample decay to 40Ar atoms. Furthermore,
because 40Ar is a common atmospheric gas which can leak into rocks and minerals making them appear older than their
actual ages, in conventional K-Ar model age determinations it is assumed that a certain proportion of the 40Ar in each rock
sample is contamination, and therefore, a certain proportion of the total 40Ar determined in the laboratory on each sample, in
accordance with the40Ar to 36Ar ratio of the present atmosphere, is subtracted so that only what is thus assumed to be the
radiogenic 40Ar in each sample is used in the model-age calculations.57 Furthermore, it is convention to assume that no
radiogenic 40Ar (written as 40Ar*) was present in the rock when it initially formed, so that all the 40Ar* now measured in the
rock has been derived from in situ radioactive decay of 40K. The reported error listed with each model age in Table 2
represents the estimated 1s (sigma) uncertainty due to the analytical equipment and procedure.
Table 1. Major oxide and selected trace element analyses.
Oxide/
Element

Clear Creek small body

Blacktail Canyon area sequence

BA-2 BA-7

BA-8

UM-1 UM-2

UM-3

UM-4

BA-5

BA-9

BA-10 BA-11 BA-12 BA-13 BA-14

SiO2 (%)

44.4

46.1

45.4

47.3

47.1

48.7

46.8

47.9

50.8

44.6

43.8

45.9

49.1

48.6

TiO2 (%)

1.05

1.00

1.09

0.68

0.78

0.62

0.47

1.03

1.13

2.30

1.21

0.70

0.80

1.06

Al2O3 (%)

14.4

12.9

13.9

9.53

11.0

8.29

6.00

14.5

13.4

13.2

14.4

14.8

14.6

14.9

Fe2O3 (%)

11.2

11.1

12.5

10.0

10.2

9.98

8.55

14.6

13.1

20.2

16.3

10.8

12.3

12.5

MgO (%)

10.6

11.5

10.6

15.6

13.7

15.5

19.6

7.09

7.14

4.86

9.21

5.05

8.20

5.40

MnO (%)

0.19

0.19

0.20

0.18

0.17

0.19

0.16

0.22

0.16

0.26

0.22

0.18

0.19

0.21

CaO (%)

12.1

12.4

10.7

12.0

12.2

11.9

12.2

11.2

9.22

10.7

9.62

14.2

11.3

11.1

Na2O (%)

0.82

0.80

0.82

0.66

0.82

0.63

0.20

2.10

3.50

2.14

1.79

2.33

2.38

2.71

K2O (%)

1.95

1.35

1.96

1.00

0.91

1.02

0.11

0.47

0.76

0.67

1.12

1.58

0.25

1.26

P2O5 (%)

1.02

0.70

0.81

0.54

0.57

0.54

0.35

0.12

0.12

0.53

0.15

0.07

0.07

0.11

LOI (%)

2.21

2.67

2.52

1.97

2.57

2.96

6.04

1.01

1.28

1.18

2.43

5.15

1.32

2.74

Total

99.94 100.71 100.50 99.46 100.02 100.33 100.48 100.24 100.61 100.64 100.25 100.76 100.51 100.59

Cr (ppm)

320

400

280

900

900

750

850

170

96

78

110

185

210

200

V (ppm)

260

240

250

200

210

180

125

290

310

320

320

200

230

310

Ni (ppm)

99

210

160

440

300

450

700

89

64

62

74

115

120

82

Co (ppm)

57

54

56

60

50

50

60

59

54

54

60

49

49

47.5

Cu (ppm)

49

29.5

440

13.5

36

115

66

73

84

32

16

96

84

78

Zn (ppm)

67

84

86

78

80

110

60

105

105

175

150

60

86

100

Rb (ppm)

91

70

120

58

41

62

1.0

8.0

15.5

11

33

50

2.4

35

Sr (ppm)

430

480

600

200

390

125

140

230

125

100

72

290

200

220

Pb (ppm)

11.5

13.5

12.0

4.5

13.0

6.5

5.5

4.0

7.0

6.5

6.5

3.0

5.0

2.0

Th (ppm)

10.5

6.5

7.0

5.5

6.0

4.4

4.3

0.25

0.29

0.65

0.24

0.16

0.17

0.34

U (ppm)

4.6

2.3

2.8

2.1

2.1

1.6

1.45

0.09

0.11

0.28

0.09

0.06

0.05

0.14

Ce (ppm)

145

98

105

91

84

66

54

5.5

6.0

15.0

5.0

3.5

3.5

6.0

La (ppm)

73

52

56

47.0

45.5

34

29.5

2.5

2.5

7.5

2.0

1.5

1.5

3.0

Nd (ppm)

91

100

115

57

88

64

56

5.5

8.5

21.0

8.5

5.5

6.0

8.5

Sm (ppm)

15.0

16.5

17.5

10.0

14.0

10.5

9.0

<0.02

2.5

5.5

2.4

1.65

1.70

2.3

RM
79.85

Clear
area

Table 1b. Major oxide and selected trace element analyses.


Oxide/
Element

River Miles (RM) 126.5-129 sequence

Cottonwood
Canyon

Creek Cremation
Creek

Pipe
Creek

VS13

BA-6

BA-15 BA-16 BA-17 BA-18 VS-8

VS-10 BA-1

VS-11

BA-3 VS-12

BA-4

SiO2 (%)

50.2

49.0

51.2

51.1

47.1

49.3

50.5

49.1

50.4

47.7

50.1

50.1

47.3

TiO2 (%)

1.31

1.95

2.33

1.12

1.14

1.75

0.99

1.11

1.20

0.79

0.92

0.76

0.49

Al2O3 (%)

13.2

12.7

12.3

13.1

13.7

12.2

13.8

13.0

13.6

14.7

12.6

14.7

14.0

Fe2O3 (%)

16.8

18.5

16.9

13.8

14.5

17.1

14.1

15.3

14.8

13.0

11.0

12.2

10.8

MgO (%)

5.12

5.13

4.62

6.77

6.74

4.89

6.16

6.11

6.14

6.29

11.4

7.39

11.0

MnO (%)

0.24

0.25

0.18

0.20

0.21

0.24

0.30

0.23

0.28

0.21

0.19

0.21

0.24

CaO (%)

8.36

8.89

7.93

8.78

10.9

8.19

9.34

9.59

8.41

13.8

9.32

9.57

11.8

Na2O (%)

3.17

2.19

2.66

3.08

2.36

2.63

2.15

1.63

1.93

0.69

0.77

2.71

2.17

K2O (%)

0.51

0.61

0.44

0.50

0.63

0.74

1.04

1.41

1.66

0.82

1.62

1.40

1.10

P2O5 (%)

0.16

0.18

0.37

0.16

0.16

0.31

0.15

0.16

0.15

0.24

0.17

0.12

0.06

LOI (%)

0.86

0.69

1.44

1.47

2.83

2.77

1.08

1.97

1.49

1.77

1.61

1.18

0.90

Total

99.93 100.09 100.37 100.08 100.27 100.12 99.61

99.61

100.06 100.01 99.70 100.34

99.86

Cr (ppm)

<2

<2

33

165

170

26

63

31

130

550

110

480

V (ppm)

340

650

390

320

350

380

270

300

330

180

195

230

240

Ni (ppm)

25

24

28

78

86

28

52

30

37

73

300

69

160

Co (ppm)

49.5

66

32

45.5

49.5

42

46

51

63

39

54

47.5

59

Cu (ppm)

39.5

120

150

23

23.5

45.5

130

43

96

60

6.5

48

2.0

Zn (ppm)

145

140

130

115

105

145

250

150

140

87

88

98

175

Rb (ppm)

11.0

8.5

4.7

9.5

16

10.5

17.5

29

30

22.5

82

44.5

9.0

Sr (ppm)

220

160

150

165

145

115

360

240

180

320

65

230

210

Pb (ppm)

5.0

5.0

8.0

5.5

3.5

6.5

34.5

11.5

8.0

10.0

6.5

6.0

6.0

Th (ppm)

0.81

0.92

1.10

0.29

0.37

0.63

1.0

0.63

4.1

0.24

4.9

0.87

1.95

U (ppm)

0.35

0.39

0.51

0.13

0.17

0.24

0.64

0.45

0.40

0.29

1.35

0.36

0.26

Ce (ppm)

13.5

15.5

18.5

5.5

8.0

14.0

11.0

16.5

18.0

11.5

43.0

9.5

5.5

La (ppm)

7.5

8.0

9.0

2.5

4.0

7.0

6.0

9.0

9.5

8.0

23.5

5.0

3.1

Nd (ppm)

11.5

11.5

23.5

9.0

11.0

18.5

9.5

13.5

13.0

9.5

21.5

8.0

3.8

Sm (ppm)

3.3

2.4

6.0

2.6

2.8

4.8

2.6

3.3

2.9

2.4

4.6

2.2

<0.02

All the results of the Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb isotope analyses are listed in Table 3. As expected from the trace element
analyses, there is a relatively good spread in the isotope ratios for each of the radioisotope pairs. This is ideal for the plotting
of isochrons with good statistics for the fits to the data, and for significant age calculations.The Isoplot computer
program,58 which is now commonly utilized by the geochronology community, was used to process the analytical data for
each radioisotope system. This program utilizes the least-squares linear regression method59 to plot the isochron as the
best-fit regression line through the data. The slope of the isochron is then used by the program to calculate the isochron age
using the standard isochron-age equation. When plotted, each data point has assigned to it error bars that represent the
estimated 2s uncertainties due to the analytical equipment and procedure. The program also evaluates the uncertainties
associated with the calculated isochron age using a statistic known as the mean square of weighted deviates (MSWD),
which is roughly a measure of the ratio of the observed scatter of the data points from the best-fit line or isochron to the
expected scatter from the assigned errors and error correlations (including, but not limited to, the analytical equipment). If
the assigned errors are the only cause of scatter, so that the observed scatter approximates the expected scatter, then the
value of the MSWD will tend to be near unity. MSWD values much greater than unity generally indicate either
underestimated analytical errors or the presence of non-analytical scatter, while MSWD values much less than unity
generally indicate either overestimated analytical errors or unrecognized error-correlations. Thus it is crucial to estimate
adequately the analytical errors so that the observed scatter of the data points from the isochron line yields an MSWD near
unity. This was the procedure adopted here, so that the isochrons plotted in Figs. 68 have MSWDs near unity. The errors
for the isochron ages calculated from the isochrons represent the estimated 2s uncertainties. This does not mean that the
true age of the samples has a 95% probability of falling within the stated age interval, but rather only signifies that the mean
of the infinitely-replicated regressions would yield an isochron age within this interval.
Table 2. K-Ar isotope analyses and model ages.
Location

40
Sample K2O 40K
Ar* 40Ar*
Code (wt%) (ppm) (nl/g) (ppm)

40

Ar* 40Ar*/
Total40Ar
40
(%) Total Ar (ppm)

40

36

Ar/ Ar

36

UncerModel
tainty
Ar (ppm) K/ Ar Age
(Ma) (1
(Ma)
sigma)
40

36

BA-2

1.997 1.977 93.72 0.1671 94.03 0.9403

0.1777

4960.3

0.0000358 55223.5 1082.5 29

BA-7

1.738 1.721 79.36 0.1415 73.3 0.733

0.1930

1108.3

0.0001741 9885.1 1060.4 28

BA-8

1.752 1.734 95.08 0.1695 82.1 0.821

0.2065

1650.4

0.0001251 13860.9 1205.3 31

UM-1

1.015 1.005 87.97 0.1569 85.85 0.8585

0.1828

2092.5

0.0000873 11512.0 1666.5 63

UM-2

1.011 1.001 73.58 0.1312 77.9 0.779

0.1684

1339.0

0.0001257 7963.4 1482.8 39

Clear
UM-3
Creek
small body UM-4

0.776 0.768 53.92 0.0961 75.3 0.753

0.1276

1197.7

0.0001065 7211.3 1436.5 38

0.118 0.117 21.34 0.0380 49.5 0.495

0.0768

585.8

0.0001310 893.1

BA-5

1.474 1.459 21.95 0.0391 77.73 0.7773

0.0503

1389.8

0.0000361 40415.5 418.1 12

BA-9

0.837 0.829 42.34 0.0755 84.7 0.847

0.0891

1933.1

0.0000460 18021.7 1144.3 30

BA-10 0.687 0.680 45.98 0.0820 81.5 0.815

0.1006

1598.0

0.0000629 10810.8 1399.7 37

BA-11 0.904 0.895 49.63 0.0885 72.2 0.722

0.1226

1065.6

0.0001150 7782.6 1215.8 32

BA-12 1.304 1.291 41.19 0.0734 78.4 0.784

0.0936

1372.9

0.0000681 18957.4 794.6 21

BA-13 0.672 0.665 20.06 0.0358 58.7 0.587

0.0610

716.8

0.0000850 7823.5 758.6 21

BA-14 1.352 1.338 38.51 0.0687 84.6 0.846

0.0812

1925.3

0.0000421 31781.5 730.3 20

VS-13

0.528 0.523 ---

0.1029

870.5

0.0001182 4424.70 1259

BA-6

0.607 0.601 32.80 0.0585 79.41 0.7941

0.0737

1437.8

0.0000512 11738.3 1201.1 39

0.01263 1159.3

0.0000108 33703.7 405.1 10

BA-16 0.653 0.646 28.42 0.0507 62.6 0.626

0.0810

791.1

0.0001023 6314.8 1022.2 28

River Miles BA-17 0.613 0.607 24.76 0.04414 61.1 0.61


126.5129
sequence BA-18 1.323 1.310 71.82 0.1280 87.4 0.874

0.0722

760.9

0.0000948 6403.0 964.9 26

0.1465

2345.8

0.0000624 20989.9 1205.9 31

VS-8
1.138 1.126 --Cottonwoo
d Canyon VS-10 0.827 0.818 ---

0.1440 92.3 0.923

0.1560

4571.5

0.0000341 33020.5 1439

37

0.1147 89.5 0.895

0.1282

3507.5

0.0000365 22411.0 1532

39

Blacktail
Canyon
area
sequence

BA-15 0.368 0.364 5.28

0.05528 53.7 0.537

0.00941 74.5 0.745

2574.2 73

38

RM 79.85

BA-1

2.234 2.212 109.66 0.1955 83.4 0.834

0.2344

Clear
Creek

VS-11

0.272 0.269 ---

0.07028 693.5

0.0001013 2655.48 1318

0.1361

0.0000831 18194.9 975.4 24

0.03036 43.2 0.432

near Clear
Creek
BA-3

1.527 1.512 62.51 0.1115

Cremation
Creek
VS-12

0.571 0.565 ---

Pipe Creek BA-4

1.138 1.126 77.98 0.1390 92.08 0.9208

81.92 0.8192

0.07295 73.0 0.730

1783.2

1637.5

0.0001314 16834.1 1119.4 34


43

0.09993 1116.5

0.0000894 6319.91 1447

0.1510

0.0000403 27940.4 1372.9 26

3739.7

43

The K-Ar model ages in Table 2 range from 405.1 10 Ma to 2574.2 73 Ma. The other radioisotope pairs yielded isochron
ages of 1240 84 Ma (Rb-Sr), 1655 40 Ma (Sm-Nd), and 1883 53 Ma (Pb-Pb) (figs. 68). Unfortunately, the K-Ar
isotope data contained too much scatter to yield a statistically viable K-Ar isochron and isochron age. This suggests that a
significant component of the data has been perturbed by factors other than simple analytical error. Factors likely to be
responsible for the wide variations in the K-Ar model ages include contamination by open-system behavior such as
additions from the host wallrocks, and/or perturbing of the K-Ar radioisotope system.
Fig. 5. Representative photo-micrographs of the amphibolite samples collected for this study from outcrops along the
Colorado River corridor (see fig. 1). All photo-micrographs are at the same scale (20 or 1 mm = 40mm). The amphibolites
are here viewed under crossed polars and consist of hornblende (bright colors, two cleavages) and plagioclase (grey,
multiple twinning). There is only occasional minor sericite alteration (speckled, shimmering) of the plagioclase.
BA-1 (River Mile 78.5)
VS-11 (Clear Creek area)
BA-10 (Blacktail Canyon area)
BA-13 (Blacktail Canyon area)
BA-6 (River Miles 126.5129)
BA-15 (River Miles 126.5129)
Some of the 27 data points do not plot on the isochrons in Figs. 68. The Rb-Sr isochron is defined by only 19 samples, the
Sm-Nd isochron by 21 samples, and the Pb-Pb isochron by 20 samples. For each isochron the assigned analytical errors
are low and the statistics are excellent.
Fig. 6. 87Rb/86Sr versus 87Sr/86Sr isochron diagram for the Brahma amphibolites in Grand Canyon. Nineteen of the 27 wholerock samples were used in the isochron and age calculations. The bars represent the 2s uncertainties.The observed scatter
matches low assigned analytical errors whenever the MSWD equals unity. The excellent statistics for these isochrons,
coupled with the wide spread of the data points, yield isochron ages with low 2s uncertainties. If more data points were
included in the Isoplot analyses, both the Sm-Nd and Pb-Pb isochron ages would essentially be the same, but the 2s
uncertainties would be higher, whereas the Rb-Sr isochron age would be significantly lower. Only 610 samples are
routinely used in most radioisotope dating studies for plotting isochrons and calculating isochron ages. The use of 1921
samples in this study is exceptionally generous. In isochron regression analysis and isochron age calculations outlying data
points are frequently excluded in order to improve the isochron fits and the resultant statistics, even when the excluded data
plot as close to the isochrons as they do here.
Discussion
Fig. 7. 147Sm/144Nd versus 143Nd/144Nd isochron diagram
for the Brahma amphibolites in Grand Canyon. Twentyone of the 27 whole-rock samples were used in the
isochron and age calculations. The bars represent 2s
uncertainties.These 27 samples of the Brahma
amphibolites in Grand Canyon yielded an enormously
wide range of K-Ar model ages, from 405.1 10 Ma
to 2574.2 73 Ma, for a rock unit that is supposed to
be 17401750 Ma. Even samples only 0.84 meters
apart in the same outcrop of the small amphibolite
body near Clear Creek (table 2, lower right corner of
fig. 1, fig. 3) yielded K-Ar model ages of 1205.3 31
Ma and 2574.2 73 Ma. Petrographically these
amphibolites are dominated by hornblende which
shows no signs of any alteration to chlorite, while the
minor plagioclase is not replaced by sericite alteration,
which is confirmed by the low whole-rock K2O contents
of 0.111.96 wt% (table 1). Thus the wide range of KAr model ages for these amphibolites cannot be
explained by any significant variable alteration. These
differences instead could be explained easily by 40Ar*
loss from one part of the outcrop and accumulation of
excess 40Ar* in the other part of the same outcrop. This could
also account for why there is too much scatter in the K-Ar isotope
data for this rock unit to produce a viable isochron and a
statistically valid isochron age for it. Such an excessively wide
range of K-Ar model ages and the corresponding inability to
obtain a valid K-Ar isochron age, plus the uncertainty over 40Ar*
mobility and the role of excess 40Ar*, must cast some doubt over
the reliability of K-Ar radioisotope dating. While the Ar-Ar method
is now often preferred, due to its ability often to decipher loss or
accumulation of Ar, in this study the K-Ar method was used

because the Ar-Ar method is usually performed on individual minerals, whereas here the focus was on comparison of the
whole-rock analyses of the four major radioisotope systems.
Fig. 8. 206Pb/204Pb versus 207Pb/204Pb isochron diagram
for the Brahma amphibolites in Grand Canyon. Twenty of
the 27 whole-rock samples were used in the isochron
and age calculations. The ellipses represent the 2s
uncertainties.Snelling60, 61 reported much evidence of
the mobility of 40Ar* in crustal rocks. This can result
in 40Ar* loss from some rock units and some minerals
within rock units and 40Ar* excess in other rock units and
minerals. As an inert gas which does not chemically
bond with the crystal lattices of minerals, 40Ar* can
migrate from and through lava flows. Subsequent to their
extrusion these lava flows were buried under a
considerable thickness of sedimentary and other
volcanic strata, and subjected to metamorphism. Thus,
there were ample opportunities for40Ar* to be lost from
these rock units to surrounding rock units or the
atmosphere. In other rock units excess 40Ar* could
accumulate. Even within single rock units there could be
regions and minerals whose 40Ar* content has been
depleted, and nearby areas and minerals in which
excess 40Ar* has accumulated. This explanation might
well account for the wide variations in the individual sample K-Ar model ages for the metamorphosed basalts reported in
Table 2. Different samples of amphibolite units may contain different quantities of K, and therefore 40K (sometimes vastly
different quantities). Nevertheless, all samples from these amphibolites are supposed to be the same age. No matter what
their 40K concentrations are, a constant rate of 40K decay should have yielded the same proportional quantities of 40Ar*, so
that all samples yielded the same model age. Thus the wide range of K-Ar model ages recorded for these amphibolites must
be due to some cause, other than decay rate variability. The mobility of 40Ar* would seem to provide the most likely
explanation.Alternately, it might be postulated that substantial 40K decay has not really occurred but that the 40Ar in the lavas
was acquired instead from their mantle source and conduit contacts. However, it is certain that much radioactive decay has
occurred throughout the earths history, physical evidence for which is provided by radiohalos62, 63, 64, 65 and fission
tracks.66 This would thus imply that the K-Ar model ages and Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb isochron ages yielded by these
ancient volcanic rocks should be due primarily to radioactive decay of the parent radioisotopes.Austin67 has discussed the
nature of the linear isotope plots for two other rock units. That discussion is equally relevant to the linear isotope plots
obtained for the Brahma amphibolites in Figs. 68. These isochron plots reveal an extraordinary linearity within the 87Rb87
Sr, 147Sm-143Nd, and 207Pb/206Pb-204Pb radioisotope systems. The extraordinary linearity implies a high degree of statistical
consistency undergirding these isochrons and isochron ages, with the isochrons passing within the relatively small
estimated range of analytical errors for every one of the data points. As already indicated, the observed scatter in these plots
has been fully accounted for by the assigned errors, as measured by the MSWD being at or near unity in each case. By
contrast, the attempted isochron plot for 40K-40Ar was not successful because the observed scatter was much too vast to be
accounted for, even if the analytical errors were assumed to be much larger than the laboratory estimates.Snelling68 has
reviewed the many problems that beset the major parent-daughter radioisotope pairs. Whole-rock Rb-Sr systems can be
disturbed and reset to give good-fit secondary isochrons even by relatively low-grade metamorphism when there may be
little field evidence and only relatively minor mineralogical alteration.69 Rb and Sr elemental abundances are known to have
been redistributed during metamorphism,70 but such redistribution would not necessarily be systematic, so the Rb-Sr data
would not then plot on an isochron as they do for these Grand Canyon Brahma amphibolites. 87Sr loss from hornblende at
high temperatures has been documented,71 but in that study the loss was due to contact metamorphism, whereas
systematic loss would not be likely during regional metamorphism where the whole region is at a similar temperature, as is
evident with the Grand Canyon Brahma amphibolites. Thus, it is not legitimate to discount the reliability of this whole-rock
Rb-Sr isochron age of 1240 84 Ma for these amphibolites because it is discordant with the Sm-Nd and Pb-Pb isochron
ages for the same rocks, and with the expected age of 17411750 Ma for the original basalt lavas based on a zircon U-Pb
date for associated felsic lavas.72,73 After all, the published 10-point whole-rock Rb-Sr isochron age for the Cardenas
Basalt in Grand Canyon74 is conventionally regarded as the best constrained radioisotope date for a Grand Canyon rock
unit where the Rb-Sr radioisotope system was closed, in contrast to the K-Ar radioisotope system.On the other hand, great
confidence has been placed in Sm-Nd isochron dating of Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks because of the
belief that the Sm-Nd radioisotope system is not reset, even during highgrade regional metamorphism.75, 76 Although some
studies have shown that the Sm-Nd radioisotope system is not remobilized during hydrothermal alteration of felsic rocks,
Poitrasson, Pin, and Duthou77 maintain that rare earth element mobility caused by certain hydrothermal conditions does
perturb the Sm-Nd system. However, in a study of high-grade metamorphic tonalitic gneisses and mafic rocks,
Whitehouse78 showed that the mafic rocks had retained the older true Sm-Nd age, whereas the Sm-Nd whole-rock
radioisotope systems in the non-mafic rocks had been reset to the same age as the U-Pb zircon and other whole-rock
radioisotope systems. It has already been noted that there are neither petrographic or geochemical indications in these
Grand Canyon Brahma amphibolites of hydrothermal alteration, and being mafic rocks it is thus most likely the Sm-Nd
radioisotope system in them has not been reset. Thus this 1655 40 Ma whole-rock Sm-Nd isochron age should be
considered as both valid and reliable (in conventional terms). Yet it is discordant with the published accepted ages for the
eruption of the original basalt lavas and their subsequent metamorphism, except perhaps that its upper limit does fall within
the age range for the metamorphism.The whole-rock Pb-Pb isochron method is still utilized because it is regarded as
reliable, even where U has been mobilized.79, 80 It is argued that if a group of rock samples all have the same age and
initial whole-rock Pb isotopic composition, they will then have developed with time different present-day, whole-rock Pbisotopic compositions according to their respective present-day U-Pb ratios. If the present-day, whole-rock Pb isotopic
compositions of a suite of rock samples is then plotted, as has been done here with these Grand Canyon Brahma
amphibolites, they are expected to form a straight-line array provided they have remained closed systems, the slope of the
array being dependent on the age of the rocks, in this case 1883 53 Ma. However, Pb-Pb isotopic linear arrays are also
known to be mixing lines, particularly for mafic volcanic rocks,81 as these amphibolites originally were. Faure admits the
problem with a word of caution: not all linear arrays on the Pb-Pb diagram are isochrons.82 This Pb-Pb isochron age for
these Braham amphibolites is also discordant with the accepted published age based on zircon U-Pb dating of associated

felsic volcanic rocks; yet there is no good reason to discard it as unreliable or invalid, because there is no way of
determining if this isochron represents a linear array inherited from the original mafic magma source. However, it is more
likely that high-grade metamorphism homogenized the whole-rock Pb isotopic compositions but did not reset the Pb-Pb
radioisotope system, as with the zircon U-Pb system in the associated felsic volcanic rocks.83, 84 It is often argued that
usually zircon U-Pb ages are the best, but they do suffer from the possibilities of the zircons being inherited grains so their
U-Pb ages are source ages, and of thermal resetting of the radioisotope systems within them. On the other hand, the wholerock Pb-Pb system is more likely to have been homogenized but not reset, so it could be argued the whole-rock Pb-Pb
isochron age is more reliable.Therefore, assuming that each of the Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb isochron ages are valid and
reliable, it is clearly evident that there is gross disagreement between these radioisotope systems as to the age of these
amphibolites. Indeed, the discordances between the isochron ages are pronounced. Snelling et al.85 and Austin86 have
discussed explanations for these discordances and have concluded that, since the different radioisotope systems have to be
dating the same geologic event, the only explanation that can account for them is that the radioisotope decay rates have not
always been constant. Several examples were cited from the geologic literature that similarly report discordant isochron
ages for other rock units, most notably for the Great Dyke in Zimbabwe,87, 88 for the Stuart dyke swarm of central
Australia,89 and the Uruguayan dike swarm in South America.90 These examples, together with the large number of other
examples recorded by Snelling strongly suggest that, where two or more of the commonly-used radioisotope pairs are
applied to date rock units, discordances are the norm and not the exception.91Explanations for these discordances have
been attempted.92, 93, 94 For example, different isotope pairs have different closure temperatures that can therefore result
in different ages. There may also have been an open-system, magma mixing, inheritance, and/or paleoweathering. It is
sometimes suggested that there may have been differing chemical activity of the daughter elements in comparison with the
parent elements due to having different chemical properties, which is supposedly why the Pb-Pb age is often the highest.
Furthermore, submarine volcanic rocks have been known to retain Ar due to the hydrostatic pressure. Yet while those
geologic or geochemical explanations can often seem reasonable, they are not relevant to this study. In nearly every other
study reported in the literature, the discordant ages have been obtained by using the different radioisotope methods
on different whole-rock samples and/or different minerals. Similarly, in the many studies where concordant ages have been
obtained, such as for the Shap Granite in England as reported by Snelling, the different radioisotope methods have been
used again both on different samples and different minerals.95 However, in this study all four radioisotope methods were
used on the same whole-rock samples. This rules out the possibility of any of these postulated processes having any
significant effect on the resultant radioisotope ages. The high-grade metamorphism would have affected all four radioisotope
systems similarly. Using whole-rocks for the analyses homogenizes any different chemical or system behaviors in the
different minerals. In any case, these amphibolites are essentially just simple, two-mineral systems (fig. 5). Thus, this
somewhat uniform approach makes it more likely that the discordances are due to the radioisotope decay rates having not
always been constant.

Fig. 9. The isochron ages yielded by three radioisotope systems for the Brahma amphibolites, Grand Canyon, plotted
against the present half-lives of the parent radioisotopes according to their mode of decay.There is a pattern to the isochron
discordances. The isochron ages consistently indicate that the a-emitters ( 238U, 235U, 147Sm) yield older ages than the emitters (87Rb and 40K) when used to date the same geologic eventthat is, the formation of a specific rock unit. In the case
of the Brahma amphibolites, none of the isochron ages date the eruption of the original basalt lavas at 17401750 Ma, the
value based on U-Pb concordia dating of zircon grains in metamorphosed felsic volcanic lavas within the associated Brahma
and Rama Schists that are believed to have survived the metamorphism without the U-Pb radioisotope system being
reset.96, 97 Nor do the isochron ages yield the accepted date for the metamorphism of the original basalt lavas to form the
amphibolites. That event has been placed at 16901710 Ma, on the basis of U-Pb concordia dating of metamorphic
monazite, xenotime and titanite in the overlying Vishnu Schist and underlying Rama Schist.98, 99 Nevertheless, assuming
the isochron ages for the Brahma amphibolites are dating the same geologic event, the formation of the amphibolites, a
logical explanation of these data is that the radioisotope decay of the various parent isotopes has not always proceeded at
the rates described by the present-day decay constants. Thus, the discordances would instead be due to the parent
radioisotopes decaying at different rates from present rates, with the decay rates for the different parent isotopes having
been accelerated by different amounts. The data are consistent with the possibility that at some time or times in the past adecay was accelerated more than -decay.The correlation between the present radioactive decay constants for these a- and
-emitters and the ages they have yielded for the Brahma amphibolites is illustrated in Fig. 9. Austin 100 and
Snelling101 provide similar isochron age versus half-life and mode of decay diagrams for the radioisotope systems within
other rock units. In each of these examples the a-decaying isotopes ( 238U and 147Sm) yielded older isochron ages than the decaying isotopes (40K and87Rb). Among the -decaying isotopes, 87Rb has the smaller decay constant and thus the longer
half-life, yet in the cited
rock units it consistently
yields the older ages, for
example, double the K-Ar
isochron age of the
Cardenas Basalt.102 On
the other hand, even
though 147Sm
has
the
smaller decay constant
(and thus the longer halflife) of the a-decaying
isotopes, it does not
always yield the older
isochron age. It does for
other
rock
units,103, 104, 105 but not
for
the
Brahma
amphibolites
(fig.
9).
Perhaps
the
metamorphism of the original basalt lavas may have reset the Sm-Nd radioisotope system in the resulting Brahma
amphibolites but not perturbed the U-Pb radioisotope pairs. If this is the case, then it may also be possible that at some time
or times in the past the longer half-life a-emitter 147Sm had its decay accelerated more than the other a-emitters 238U
and 235U.
Fig. 10. The isochron ages yielded by three radioisotope systems for the Brahma amphibolites, Grand Canyon, plotted
against the atomic weights of the parent radioisotopes according to their mode of decay.There is another possibility
originally suggested by Austin and displayed by Vardiman et al. in their Fig. 5. 106 If these isochron ages are plotted against
the atomic weights of the parent radioisotopes (fig. 10), there is a clear relationship of increasing isochron age with atomic
weight. In this instance, U has a heavier atomic weight than Sm, and the Pb-Pb isochron age is older than the Sm-Nd
isochron age. And in this relationship the a-decay ages are older than the one -decay (Rb-Sr) age. Whatever mechanism
or mechanisms were involved in causing accelerated radioisotope decay, there thus were likely at least three factors
involved to produce differing amounts of acceleration for the different parent isotopesthe mode of decay, the present
halflife, and the atomic weight. However, with a combination of these three factors influencing the amount of acceleration of
the decay rates of the different parent radioisotopes, it might seem that these four methodsK-Ar, Rb-Sr (-decay), and
Sm-Nd, U-Pb (a-decay)may not be really enough to resolve the mystery of the mechanism for accelerated decay. Thus, in
future studies it is planned to utilize all four -decay radioisotope systemsK-Ar, Rb-Sr, Lu-Hf, and Re-Os.The critical
problems with accelerated radioisotope decay have been discussed by Vardiman et al.107 The question of how the heat
would have been dissipated is particularly relevant. Volumetric cooling due to concurrent stretching of the fabric of space
has been suggested as a viable mechanism.108 Kinnaird has demonstrated that a small change in the binding energies
within the nuclei of the parent radioisotopes not only causes the decay rates of the heavier elements to be greatly increased,
but drastically decreases the output of heat energy.109 Furthermore, if the accelerated nuclear decay is due to small
changes in the forces holding together the nuclei of the parent radioisotopes,110 then the accelerated nuclear decay would
not alter the electronic aspects of matter or affect the chemistry of the elements involved. On the other hand, there is clear
evidence that there may not have really been a heat problem. Because 238U radiohalos in biotite flakes are annealed at and
above 150 C, if there had been too much heat during accelerated 238U decay, no 238U radiohalos would have formed and
still be visible today.111In any case, it is clear that the different radioisotope systems produced discordant isochron ages for
the same geologic event (the eruption of the original basalt lavas or their subsequent metamorphism). For this discordance
to be due to changes in radioisotope decay rates, the a-decay rates must have been accelerated more than the -decay
rates. It is also possible that the longer the half-life of a radioisotope, whether a or -emitter, the more its decay has been
accelerated at some time or times in the pastthat is, the slower the decay rate, the more it is has been temporarily
increased. For these reasons, the isochron dating method cannot be relied on to give true real time ages. As with the K-Ar
radioisotope system, there are good reasons, many perhaps as yet unknown, for rejecting each of these radioisotope
systems as being capable of yielding reliable absolute ages.
Conclusions
The Brahma amphibolites of the Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite of the Grand Canyon were originally erupted as basalt
lavas in a thick sequence of lavas and sediments that suffered high-grade regional metamorphism. This sequence was
intruded by granitic plutons to form the crystalline basement of the region. These amphibolites are a very simple whole-rock
system, primarily composed of hornblende, with minor subordinate plagioclase. Both petrographic examination and

geochemical analyses of the 27 samples used in this study do not suggest these rocks have suffered any significant
hydrothermal alteration or regressive metamorphism. The hornblende shows no sign of chloritisation, or the plagioclase of
sericitisation, and the K2O contents of the rocks are low.The samples yielded a wide range of K-Ar model ages, even for
adjacent samples from a single outcrop of the same original lava flow. No statistically viable K-Ar isochron age could be
calculated because of this scatter in the data. The best and most likely explanation is 40Ar* mobility within these rocks.The
Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotope systems, on the other hand, yielded good, statistically valid, isochron ages of 1240
84 Ma, 1655 40 Ma, and 1883 53 Ma, respectively. These are clearly discordant with one another, with the published
17411750 Ma age for the original basalt lavas (based on zircon U-Pb dating of related felsic volcanics), and with the
published 16901710 Ma age for the subsequent metamorphism (based on monazite and titanite U-Pb dating of the
overlying Vishnu Schist). There are no clear reasons to reject any of these discordant isochron ages as invalid, or not dating
the same event. An explanation for this discordancy may be made on the basis of parent radioisotope decay at rates
different than presently measured during the interval since these rocks formed. This change in decay rate cannot have been
by a single common proportionality factor, applicable to all radioisotope species. Instead, the change in rate must have been
different for the different isotope pairs such that the U-Pb system decayed through 1,883 million years (in terms of todays
rate), while the Rb-Sr system decayed through 1,240 million years (likewise in terms of todays rate) over the identical actual
time interval.The pattern of isochron ages suggests several factors that may have been involved in the acceleration
mechanism(s)mode of decay (a or ), decay rate, and atomic weight. The a-decaying U and Sm yielded older ages than
the -decaying Rb, while the heavier atomic weight U yielded an older age than the Sm. In any case, if decay rates have not
been constant, radioisotope dating is unreliable and cannot provide valid absolute ages for rocks.
Acknowledgments
Numerous people made this research possible, and all are acknowledged and thanked. The samples were collected with the
permission of the National Park Service and the Research Office of the Grand Canyon National Park. Funding for the
sampling trips and analytical work was provided by the Institute for Creation Research from donations received towards the
RATE project. Help with sampling was provided by Tom Vail, Kurt Wise, and ICR raft tour participants. The reviewers and
the editor of the manuscript are thanked for their helpful input that greatly improved the readability of this paper. My wife
Kym and my family have tolerated my many long absences on field and other trips, and have supported my research
endeavors. Finally, the Lord has faithfully helped and guided to bring research projects like this to fruition.
Whole-Rock K-Ar Model and Isochron, and Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb Isochron, Dating of the Somerset Dam
Layered Mafic Intrusion, Australia
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling on March 24, 2010
Abstract
The Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion in southeast Queensland, Australia, has been conventionally dated as Late
Triassic by the apparently successful application of radioisotopic dating techniques. Mineralogical, geochemical, and
isotopic evidence indicates that all of this gabbro intrusions cyclic units were derived coevally from the same parental
basaltic magma, with an initial homogeneous isotopic mixture ideal for yielding concordant isochron ages. However, newly
obtained K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic data from 15 whole-rock samples (representing all gabbro
macrolayers in four of the intrusions cyclic units) yield discordant isochron ages, although the excellent-fitting 15-point KAr isochron suggests the resultant 1748 Ma age (Middle Jurassic) should be regarded as the revised conventional age of
the layered intrusion. Nevertheless, it is concluded that these discordances between the radioisotope systems are likely due
to changes in their decay rates in the past, with the longer half-life b-emitter 87Rb being accelerated more and thus yielding
an older age. Furthermore, the Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes indicate the parental basaltic magma was derived from a depleted
mantle source, while the large spread of Nd T DM ages suggests accelerated radioisotopic decay rates during the partial
melting and magma ascent. It is concluded that the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion has inherited the radioisotopic
signature of its mantle source, and so the conventional radioisotopic dating techniques do not provide its true age.
Keywords: gabbro, layered intrusion, Australia, potassium-argon, rubidium-strontium, samarium-neodymium, leadlead,
radioisotopic dating, whole-rock model ages, whole-rock isochron ages, discordances, decay constants, accelerated
decay, mantle source inheritance
This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, pp. 305324
(2003) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh.
Introduction
The Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion is situated immediately west of the village of Somerset Dam at 15232E and
277S, some 65 km northwest of the city of Brisbane in south-east Queensland on Australias east coast (Figure 1). The
outcrop is somewhat oval shaped, covering an area of about 4 km 2 with a diameter of about 1.5 km. It is a small layered
gabbro intrusion with an exposed stratigraphic thickness of 500 m on a steep hillside. It is a well-preserved, well-exposed,
steep-sided, discordant intrusion which is undeformed and unmetamorphosed. The roof and floor of the intrusion are not
exposed, and unknown thicknesses of the layered gabbros of the intrusion have been eroded from the top, and are
concealed below the exposed sequence. The location and nature of the feeder zone are unknown, yet it probably represents
a small, relatively shallow (35 km depth), subvolcanic magma chamber.1, 2

Due to its relatively small size, excellent preservation and good exposure this layered gabbro intrusion is ideal for the study
of the physical and chemical processes occurring in magma chambers emplaced at shallow crustal depths below volcanos
and feeding them.
Indeed,
layered
mafic
intrusions
provide
valuable
information on the
processes effecting
magmas while they
are
transported
from their mantle
sources until they
are emplaced. The
Somerset
Dam
intrusion though is
fundamentally
different from the
classic Skaergaard
intrusion
in
Greenland3, 4 and
the giant Bushveld
Complex intrusion
in
South
Africa,5, 6 since it is
characterized by several repetitions of similar patterns, and progressive differentiation is absent, suggesting venting of the
magma chamber through the overlying volcano and recharge from the magma source below several times during its
emplacement and cooling. The age of this intrusion and the timing of these processes have to be younger than the andesitic
lavas that the magma body has intruded, so radioisotope dating has been the only means for determining some time
constraints.
Figure 1. Location and general geology maps for the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion (after Mathison).7
Geologic Setting
The Somerset Dam layered mafic complex intrudes the andesitic lavas and tuffs of the Neara Volcanics, which have been
dated as early Middle Triassic based on plant spores in the underlying and overlying sedimentary formations,8, 9,10 and on
radioisotope dates of 24011 Ma (Ar-Ar), 232 Ma and 2428 Ma (K-Ar).11, 12, 13 Together with other acid to intermediate
volcanics and volcaniclastic and clastic sediments, the Neara Volcanic were deposited in the downfaulted Esk Trough, a
Mesozoic basin within the Paleozoic New England Orogen, elongated blocks of which are exposed to the west and east
paralleling the sides of the Esk
Trough.14, 15 To
the
south,
the
sediments and volcanics of the Esk
Trough plunge beneath the clastic
sediments and coal seams of the Upper
TriassicJurassic Moreton Basin.
The region is characterized by younger
basaltic volcanism, radioisotope dated
as
Late
Oligocene
to
Early
Miocene.16, 17These volcanic rocks
form a continuous belt extending northnorthwest from near the coast south of
Brisbane for over 200 km parallel and
close to the mountains west of the
Brisbane River Valley, which has been
eroded into the sediments and
volcanics of the Esk Trough. This
volcanism produced large, now eroded,
shield volcanoes, complex lava fields,
ring complexes and localized cones,
plugs,
laccoliths,
sills
and
dikes.18 Other
Tertiary
volcanic
remnants are found outcropping to the
east and northeast of the Somerset
Dam intrusion, perhaps suggesting a
wider distribution of these lava flows
across the region prior to the erosion.
The geological development of the
region has been carefully documented
by Cranfield et al.19 Based on
stratigraphic
relationships,
the
Somerset
Dam
layered
gabbro
intrusion is clearly younger than the
Neara Volcanics it intrudes, but just
how much younger has only been
determined by radioisotopic dating
which has yielded Late Triassic ages
for the intrusion.20, 21 Nevertheless, if
it
were
not
for
conventional
biostratigraphic and radioisotopic dating

a genetic relationship between the Somerset Dam gabbro and the basaltic volcanism which produced the Tertiary shield
volcanoes and lava fields may not be excluded. According to stratigraphic relationships, the sediments of the Moreton Basin
overly the Neara Volcanics and other sediments of the Esk Trough, with the erosion of both these basins apparently
commencing prior to the extrusion of the basalt and related lavas of the shield volcanos and lava fields.22,23 However, an
interpretation of the regional geologic record within a creation framework and timescale would place the deposition of the
volcanics and sediments in these Mesozoic basins as late in the Flood year, with the subsequent erosion at the end of the
Flood and extending into the post-Flood era to the present day. Thus if the Tertiary basaltic volcanic activity occurred early in
the post-Flood era, then it would not be far removed in time, or spatially, from the Somerset Dam gabbro intrusion that has
been interpreted as the remains of the magma chamber feeding a basaltic volcano.
Geology of the Intrusion
Figure 2. Geological map (top) and cross-sections (bottom) of the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion (after
Mathison24).
The geology of the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion and its immediate area has been thoroughly mapped and
investigated.25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 The general geology of the immediate area is shown in Figure 1, while Figure 2 provides
a detailed geologic map and appropriate cross-sections of the intrusion, based on the definitive work of Mathison.32, 33, 34
Within this gabbro intrusion there is an exposed sequence of 22 saucer-shaped macrolayers, 350 m thick generally dipping
inwards at 1020. The contacts between these prominent layers are sharply defined, generally to within 10 cm, and are
phase, modal mineralogy and textural contacts. These macrolayers appear to be stratigraphically and laterally
homogeneous. The repetition of these macrolayers has allowed the recognition of at least six well-developed cyclic units,
ranging from 30 to 150 m thick (average about 80 m thick). The macrolayers are limited to only four main rock types, which
are defined in terms of their essential cumulus mineral phases (distinguished texturally from the intercumulus mineral
phases).35, 36 These four rock types constituting the macrolayers are leucogabbro or anorthosite (plagioclase cumulate),
troctolite (plagioclase + olivine cumulate), olivine gabbro (plagioclase + augite + olivine cumulate), and oxide (or ferri-)
gabbro (plagioclase + augite olivine + magnetite + ilmenite cumulate).The definition of these cyclic units, selecting which
of these macrolayers commences each cycle, is somewhat interpretive. The choice is strongly influenced by what is
expected to be the order of crystallization and the magma fractionation pattern, because there is commonly no clear field
evidence to identify the base and top of a cyclic unit. In the Somerset Dam gabbro intrusion, Mathison37, 38, 39, 40 chose to
define each cyclic unit to be the sequence troctoliteolivine gabbrooxide gabbroleucogabbro, because troctolite was
considered the least fractionated rock type, and cryptic trends generally suggested a reversal at the bases of the troctolites.
However, Mathison41 revised this choice of sequence in each cyclic unit so that anorthosite was defined as the basal layer
and oxide gabbro as the top layer in each cyclic unit, the choice subsequently followed by Walker.42 This interpretation
better fits the inferred order of crystallization, the oxide gabbro being the most fractionated rock type. Mineral compositions
in a typical cyclic unit therefore show a reversed fractionation trend in the sequence from anorthosite to troctolite, and a
normal fractionation trend from troctolite through olivine gabbro to oxide gabbro.43, 44 Whole-rock compositions also show
marked changes between these rock types in this cyclical sequence.45, 46, 47
Figure 3. Stratigraphic column for the
Somerset Dam Layered Mafic Intrusion
(after Mathison53) showing inferred cyclic
units,
rock
densities,
and
modal
compositions (blank = leucogabbro; dotted
= troctolite; dashed = olivine gabbro; black
= oxide gabbro; R.L. = best developed zone
of rhythmic layering)
Despite the remarkable similarity of
successive
cyclic
units,
significant
differences exist between them in the
sequences of macrolayers, thicknesses of
individual macrolayers and of the cyclic
units, mineral compositions and cryptic
patterns, average level of fractionation, and
the
sizes
of
the
reversals.48, 49, 50, 51 Figure 3 shows the
stratigraphic sequence in macrolayers
within the Somerset Dam intrusion, with the
cyclic units inferred by Mathison,52 the rock
densities, and the modal compositions. Unit
3, the thickest unit in the sequence, is
noteworthy by being different from the other
cyclic units. It appears to compromise two
incomplete cyclic units in which the
sequences are anorthositetroctolite (unit
3A) and leucotroctolitetroctolite olivine
gabbro (unit 3B). In the leucotroctolite is the
best developed zone of small-scale
rhythmic banding within the macrolayers of
the intrusion. Unit 4 is also very different in
that there is a 5-mthick zone with about 7%
olivine occurring near the middle of the
anorthosite at the base of the units sequence, so that the lower 30 m of unit 4 could be an incomplete or interrupted cyclic
unit, with the sequence anorthosite troctoliticanorthosite followed by the typical cyclic sequence from anorthosite through
to oxide gabbro.
Previous Radioisotopic Dating
The currently accepted conventional age of the Somerset Dam layered gabbro intrusion is based on two sets of K-Ar
determinations reported by Webb and McDougall.54 They made two measurements on hornblende from a hornblende
gabbro near the top of the intrusion, and two measurements on plagioclase from an olivine gabbro near the bottom of the

intrusion. Murphy, Trezise, Hutton, Cranfield, and Whittaker55 and Murphy, Trezise, Hutton, and Cranfield56 recalculated
the resultant K-Ar dates using the IUGS constants of Dalrymple.57 Thus the hornblende yielded revised ages of 218 and
220 Ma, and the plagioclase yielded revised K-Ar ages of 212 and 213 Ma. Of course, it would be expected on the
assumption of the sequential crystallization of the layering within the intrusion that the dates from the olivine gabbro near the
bottom of the intrusion should be older than the dates from the hornblende gabbro near the top, but it is reasonable to
attribute these differences in the age determinations to the within error of the technique. Taking these results as a group
yields an averaged age of 2164 Ma.Walker58 separated hornblende grains from the troctolite in cyclic unit 2 and the
olivine gabbro in cyclic unit 4, and used the argon laser incremental heating technique to make 40Ar/39Ar age determinations.
Only the hornblende grains from the olivine gabbro yielded a calculated apparent age of 221.50.9 Ma. Determinations
were also made on K-feldspar, muscovite, and biotite grains of alkali feldspar granite (granophyre) and quartz monzodiorite
units which he interpreted as being related to the layered intrusion (Figure 2), and together with the hornblende result, a
pooled apparent age of 224.24.8 Ma was calculated for the entire Somerset Dam igneous complex. Similarly,
Walker59undertook Rb-Sr age determinations on whole-rock samples of all four rock types in the layered intrusion plus the
nearby peripherally-related igneous units, as well as mineral determinations for an olivine gabbro and the peripheral granite
(granophyre). An isochron fitted to all these data using all the whole-rock samples and all the mineral separates yielded an
acceptable Rb-Sr isochron age for the whole Somerset Dam igneous complex of 225.32.3 Ma, which thus agreed
remarkably well with the pooled apparent Ar-Ar age.
Sample Collection
The field work and collection of samples was undertaken in June 1998 and November 1999. Access to suitable outcrops
was provided by a farm road that starts at the village of Somerset Dam, from the highway into the village and the dam itself,
which is a spur from the Brisbane Valley Highway just north of the town of Esk. The farm access road climbs the hillside just
to the west of the village and the dam, which is the hill containing the layered gabbro intrusion. Thus the road progressively
climbs up through the different macrolayers of the intrusion, with suitable outcrops in roadcuts and on the hillside either side
of the road. During the June 1998 field trip, twelve 23 kg samples were collected along this road traverse through the
intrusion, commencing with a sample of the oxide gabbro at the top of cyclic unit 2,60 with samples of all the successive
macrolayers for units 3 and 4, to two samples of the anorthosite macrolayer at the base of unit 5. The locations of these
samples are marked on Figure 2. During the November 1999 field trip a series of six 34 kg closely-spaced samples were
collected from the oxide gabbro macrolayer at the top of cyclic unit 2. The purpose of the close-spaced sampling was to
investigate mineralogical and geochemical variations within a macrolayer, and particularly to choose one suitable sample for
separation into its mineral constituents for radioisotopic dating of them in order to produce mineral isochrons, work still in
progress. The locations of these samples are also marked on Figure 2.
Laboratory Work
All samples were sent first for sectioningone thin section from each sample for petrographic analysis. Four of the six
closely-spaced samples from the oxide gabbro macrolayer at the top of cyclic unit 2 were then selected for analysis, along
with the 11 samples from the overlying macrolayers of units 3 and 4, and the anorthosite at the base of unit 5. Approximately
100 g of each of these samples was dispatched to the AMDEL Laboratory in Adelaide, South Australia, for whole-rock major,
trace and rare earth element analyses. A second representative set of pieces (50100 g) of each of these samples was then
sent to the K-Ar dating laboratory at Activation Laboratories in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, for whole-rock K-Ar dating. A third
representative set of pieces (50100 g) of each of these samples was also sent to the PRISE Laboratory in the Research
School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, for whole-rock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and PbPb radioisotopic dating.
At the AMDEL Laboratory each sample was crushed and pulverized. Whole-rock analyses were undertaken by total fusion
of each powdered sample and then digesting them before ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma optical emission
spectrometry) for major and minor elements, and ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasmamass spectrometry) for trace and
rare earth elements. Fe was analyzed for among the major elements by ICP-OES as Fe 2O3 and reported accordingly, but
separate analyses for Fe as FeO were also undertaken via wet chemistry methods that were also able to record the loss on
ignition, primarily representing H2O or any carbonate (given off as CO 2) in the samples. The detection limit for all major
element oxides was 0.01%. For minor and trace elements the detection limits varied between 0.5 and 20 ppm, and for rare
earth elements between 0.5 and 1 ppm.At Activation Laboratories the K-Ar analyses were performed under the direction of
the K-Ar Laboratory manager, Dr. Yakov Kapusta. No specific location or expected age information was supplied to the
laboratory, but a description of the samples was given so that the laboratory staff knew the types of samples they were
dealing with and could ensure their procedures were conducted appropriately. After crushing of the whole-rock samples and
pulverizing them, the concentrations of K (weight %) were measured by the ICP technique. The 40K concentrations (ppm)
were then calculated from the terrestrial isotopic abundance using these measured concentrations of K. The concentrations
in ppm of 40Ar*, the supposed radiogenic 40Ar, were derived using the conventional formula from isotope dilution
measurements on a noble gas mass spectrometer by correcting for the presence of atmospheric argon whose isotopic
composition is known.61 The ratios 40Ar*/total Ar and 40Ar/36Ar were also derived from the mass spectrometer
measurements.The Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb isotopic analyses were undertaken at the PRISE Laboratory under the
direction of Dr. Richard Armstrong. No specific location or expected age information was supplied to the laboratory, although
samples were described as young gabbros so that the laboratory staff would optimize the sample preparation procedure in
order to obtain the best analytical results. At the laboratory the sample pieces were crushed and pulverized before being
dissolved in concentrated hydrofluoric acid, followed by the standard chemical separation procedures for each of these
radioisotope systems. Once separated, the elements in each radioisotope system were loaded by standard procedures onto
metal filaments to be used in the solid source thermal ionization mass spectrometer (TIMS), the state-of-the-art technology
in use in this laboratory. Sr isotopes were measured using the mass fractionation correction 86Sr/88Sr = 0.1194, and
the 87Sr/86Sr ratios reported are normalized to the NBS standard SRM 987 value of 0.710207. Nd isotopes were corrected
for mass fractionation using 146Nd/144Nd = 0.7219 and are normalized to the present-day 143Nd/144Nd value of 0.51268 for
BCR-1. Pb isotope ratios are normalized to NBS standard SRM 981 for mass fractionation.
Petrography and Chemistry
Each cyclic unit commences at its base with a macrolayer of leucogabbro (plagioclase cumulate or anorthosite). Plagioclase
(labradorite, 84% average modal composition62) is the main cumulus phase in the leucogabbros, with very minor cumulus
olivine (trace) and sometimes traces of cumulus magnetite. Intercumulus minerals (which crystallized subsequent to, and
therefore in the remaining space between, the cumulus phases63) in order of decreasing abundance include augite (3%),
brown hornblende (3%), ilmenite (2%), magnetite (1%), apatite (0.4%), and orthopyroxene (0.1%). The crystallization order
is thus inferred to have been plagioclase first, then minor olivine (if present), augite, magnetite and ilmenite, rare
orthopyroxene, brown hornblende, and finally apatite. The leucogabbros are consistently more altered than the other rock
types, and the augite (invariably ophitic or poikilitic) is usually highly altered to felted aggregates of a low-Al actinolitic pale

green amphibole (uralite, 6% average modal composition), which is thus commonly the next most abundant mineral to
plagioclase. The leucogabbros are mainly orthocumulates64 as indicated by their overall texture, the proportion of
intercumulus minerals, the relatively abundant brown hornblende, the extensive normal zoning in plagioclase (1520 mole
% An [anorthite]), the generally higher content of incompatible elements such as K and P, and probably also by the
extensive alteration that probably reflects a relatively high trapped fluid content upon crystallization.65Cumulus phases in
the troctolites (plagioclase-olivine cumulates) include plagioclase (labradorite, 75% average modal composition,66 olivine
(18%) and traces of Cr-magnetite, while the intercumulus minerals include mainly augite (3%), brown hornblende (0.5%),
magnetite (0.4%) and ilmenite (0.6%), with trace amounts of orthopyroxene and apatite. The crystallization order is inferred
to have been the same as for the leucogabbros, except that minor Cr-magnetite crystallized early, possibly after plagioclase.
At least some of the plagioclase had to have crystallized before the olivine because olivine grains commonly contain small
laths of plagioclase. The plagioclase laths are generally smaller and thinner than in the other rock types of the intrusion, and
they are strongly laminated. Olivine grains are subhedral when enclosed in augite, but are partly interstitial with respect to
plagioclase. Augite grains are always poikilitic or ophitic, and enclose numerous laths of plagioclase and a few grains of
olivine. However, the modal proportion and texture of augite also varies, and the troctolite in unit 4 particularly has
conspicuous augite oikocrysts (510 mm diameter). Nevertheless, the main variation in the troctolites is in the relative modal
proportions of plagioclase and olivine (see Figure 3), those troctolites with >80% plagioclase being leucotroctolites. Some
alteration of the augite has again resulted in aggregates of uralite, which can reach an average modal composition of 2%.67
In the olivine gabbros (plagioclase-augite-olivine cumulates) cumulus augite (20% average modal composition68 joins the
cumulus assemblage of plagioclase (labradorite, average 68%) and olivine (average 6%) of the troctolites, and the
intercumulus minerals are mainly brown hornblende (2%), magnetite (1%), ilmenite (1%), very minor orthopyroxene
(average 0.2%) occurring exclusively as partial reaction rings on some olivine grains, and trace apatite. The crystallization
order was probably similar to that for the leucogabbros. The augite is subhedral and twinned, and never surrounds olivine.
Again, it can be altered to uralite, which sometimes averages 1.5%. The brown hornblende is often ophitic and may be
present in amounts up to 5% by volume. Transitions between olivine gabbros and oxide gabbros are observed in the upper
cyclic units.Cumulus phases in the oxide gabbros (plagioclase-augite-magnetite-ilmenite cumulates) are mainly plagioclase
(labradorite, 55% average modal composition69) and augite (average 28%) with 03% olivine, some magnetite (average
7%) and ilmenite (average 6%). At least some of the magnetite is cumulus (subhedral octahedral), but extensive
intercumulus overgrowth has occurred so that most Fe-Ti oxide grain boundaries are interstitial to plagioclase and augite.
The augite is frequently twinned, and occurs as well-defined subhedral prisms. Although alteration of the oxide gabbros is
minimal, there are still some traces of uralite. Some brown hornblende is again present (up to an average of 1.5%), and
other intercumulus minerals are rare, while orthopyroxene is completely absent. The oxide gabbros have the most
adcumulate character, that is, during magmatic crystallization the interstitial liquid had been displaced by outgrowth from the
cumulus crystals so that the latter are interlocking.70 The oxide gabbros are also the most fractionated compositions of the
four main rock types in a typical cyclic unit. Though originally termed ferrigabbros by Mathison,71 because the total iron
content is similar to that of some of the ferrogabbros in the Skaergaard layered mafic intrusion in east Greenland, in these
Somerset Dam gabbros the Fe3+/Fe2+ is high (>0.7) due to the abundant magnetite, so Mathison72 referred to them as oxide
gabbros.The whole-rock major element oxide and selected trace and rare earth element analytical results from the 15
samples selected for this study are listed in Table 1. The distribution of the major element oxides between the four different
rock types in the macrolayers of each cyclic unit follows the pattern in the average whole-rock major element oxide
compositions for these rocks already reported by Mathison.73, 74 The oxide gabbros have the lowest SiO 2 and highest
Fe2O3 contents, and the anorthosites (leucogabbros) have the highest SiO 2 and lowest Fe2O3 contents. The Al2O3content is
highest in anorthosite at the base of each cyclic unit and decreases upwards through troctolite and olivine gabbro to the
lowest content in the oxide gabbro, which parallels the decreasing plagioclase content75 (see Figure 3). Mathison76 found
that the compositional changes with increasing height and increasing fractionation in a typical cyclic unit were clearly evident
from the major element oxide data, such as that in Table 1, and generally involve increases in total iron (both Fe 2+ and Fe3+),
the Fe3+/Fe2+ratio, TiO2 and MnO, and decreases in Al2O3, SiO2, Na2O, and K2O.The selected trace and rare earth element
data in Table 1 are also similar to the comparable data obtained by Mathison77 and Walker.78 In summary, Cr, Ni, V, and Cu
show the greatest variation both within a cyclic unit and throughout the intrusions stratigraphic succession. Furthermore, as
expected, the pattern of variations in each cyclic unit of the major and trace elements parallels the changes in mineralogy.
Thus the P2O5 content parallels the presence of accessory apatite, Sr parallels the abundance of plagioclase, and rare earth
elements such as La, Ce, and Nd are often slightly more concentrated in the oxide gabbros. Mathison79, 80, 81 also
analyzed the compositions of the major minerals (plagioclase, olivine, augite, orthopyroxene, brown hornblende, magnetite,
ilmenite, and biotite) and plotted the compositional variations through each cyclic unit for the entire exposed stratigraphic
sequence of the intrusion. He found that the most sensitive parameters for defining the cryptic compositional trends in the
minerals are An in plagioclase, Fo and Ni in olivine, and Cr in magnetite and augite.
Radioisotopic Dating Results
The K-Ar analytical data and K-Ar model ages for all 15 samples in this study are listed in Table 2. These model ages are
calculated using the standard equation of Dalrymple and Lanphere82 utilizing the ratio of the abundances of 40Ar* (the
radiogenic 40Ar) to 40K listed in Table 2. The model age method assumes no radiogenic 40Ar was present when the basaltic
magma was intruded to form each cyclic unit, and as it differentiated to form the layered gabbros while cooling. The model
ages range from 181.38 Ma (one-sigma error) to 252.89 Ma, with the mean age being 206.6 Ma (+46.2 Ma, 25.3 Ma, n
= 15). The wide variation in these model ages is not able to be explained readily, because they do not form a predictable
sequence of decreasing age with the formation of each cyclic unit in an ascending order from bottom to top of the intrusion.
Indeed, there is no recognizable pattern, except that many of the model ages are discordant from one another. The mean
model ages for the cyclic units sampled are 203.2 Ma (n = 4) for cyclic unit 2, 227.2 Ma (n = 5) for cyclic unit 3, 192.6 Ma (n
= 4) for cyclic unit 4, and 189.7 Ma (n = 2) for cyclic unit 5. Whereas there is an apparent younging trend upwards from
cyclic unit 3 to cyclic units 4 and 5, cyclic unit 2, which should be the oldest of those sampled yields a mean model age
younger than the overlying cyclic unit 3. Furthermore, where in cyclic units 3 and 4 the sequence of macrolayers has been
sampled and analyzed, these macrolayers should all be the same age, because they differentiated and fractionated from the
same pulse of intruded basaltic magma in each case, but the model ages obtained are discordant. Even where three
troctolite samples were collected in ascending order within that macrolayer within cyclic unit 3, each of those troctolite
samples yielded strongly discordant model ages. Similarly, samples SDI-2A4 and SDI-2A6, stratigraphically only several
meters apart in the same oxide gabbro macrolayer in cyclic unit 2, yield strongly discordant model ages of 194.78 Ma and
239.49 Ma respectively.
Table 1. Whole-rock major element oxide and selected trace element analyses of 15 samples from the Somerset Dam
layered mafic intrusion, near Brisbane, Australia. (Analyst: AMDEL, Australia; April, 2000).
Sample SDI-

SDI-

SDI-

SDI-

SDI-

SDI- SDI-

SDI- SDI- 3DSDI-

SDI-

SDI- 4BSDI- 4CSDI-

SDI-

2A1

2A3

2A4

2A6

2B

3A

3B

3C

3E

4A

4D

4E

Rock
Type

Oxide Oxide Oxide Oxide Anor- Troc- TrocGabbro Gabbro Gabbro Gabbro thosite tolite tolite

Troc- Olivine Anor- Troctolite Gabbro thosite tolite

Olivine Oxide Anor- AnorGabbro Gabbro thosite thosite

Cyclic
Unit

SiO2(%) 43.6

45.3

44.2

39.9

47.5

48.1 45.9

TiO2(%) 4.75

3.97

3.91

5.21

0.30

Al2O3(%) 14.6

17.1

17.2

17.2

Fe2O3(%
)
15.4

12.6

12.8

MgO
(%)

5.98

5.57

MnO
(%)

0.19

46.8 50.9

49.1

48.4

47.2

43.8

50.7

50.9

0.58 0.41

0.33 0.49

0.50

0.52

1.27

4.85

1.13

0.88

25.5

21.3 18.1

24.6 20.1

24.1

20.7

20.2

15.9

25.5

24.8

19.2

4.70

6.76 9.00

5.08 4.59

4.77

7.50

10.4

15.1

5.63

5.49

5.85

7.77

6.54

8.65 14.0

6.97 6.46

4.67

8.72

6.19

5.56

2.07

2.62

0.14

0.13

0.18

0.07

0.10 0.14

0.08 0.08

0.08

0.12

0.11

0.15

0.06

0.08

CaO (%) 11.5

10.5

10.9

6.64

12.3

10.3 9.84

11.9 13.2

12.4

10.4

10.9

11.8

10.3

10.2

Na2O
(%)

2.55

3.17

3.19

2.79

2.30

2.85 1.91

2.27 3.04

2.99

2.77

3.03

2.39

3.92

4.02

K2O (%) 0.15

0.24

0.23

0.12

0.12

0.20 0.09

0.14 0.18

0.27

0.22

0.19

0.11

0.27

0.49

P2O5(%) 0.23

0.30

1.20

0.04

0.06

0.11 0.04

0.06 0.04

0.15

0.07

0.05

0.01

0.06

0.08

Lol (%)

0.57

0.09

0.17

0.77

0.89

0.99 0.91

1.36 0.55

0.94

0.86

0.22

0.43

0.54

1.07

TOTAL

99.52

98.98

99.78

99.52

100.28 99.94 100.34 99.59 99.63

99.97 100.28 99.76

100.1

100.18 100.63

Cr (ppm) 70

70

60

20

90

100

200

120

550

200

380

140

40

40

70

V (ppm) 470

340

340

440

30

60

60

40

90

60

70

350

550

140

110

Ni (ppm) 26

92

115

230

91

36

39

81

49

Co
(ppm)

40

40

40

60

30

40

60

30

20

20

40

60

50

20

20

Cu
(ppm)

90

84

250

<2

12

32

33

13

38

20

45

210

60

13

Zn
(ppm)

83

59

59

94

34

46

63

55

33

45

55

60

79

42

74

Rb
(ppm)

4.5

4.5

3.5

1.5

2.5

3.5

1.5

2.5

3.5

5.0

4.0

3.5

1.5

5.0

15.5

Sr (ppm) 450

550

500

550

600

450

400

550

470

550

490

500

410

700

700

Y (ppm) 16

11

16

10

10

Zr (ppm) 90

60

50

40

30

40

30

30

30

40

50

40

40

40

50

Ba
(ppm)

50

60

60

40

45

45

30

40

50

65

60

55

35

75

100

Pb
(ppm)

25

20

15

30

<5

<5

<5

<5

<5

10

<5

<5

25

Th
(ppm)

33.5

20.5

18.5

17.5

9.5

11.0 12.0

9.5

10.0

9.5

11.0

11.5

14.0

8.0

8.5

U (ppm) 1.5

0.5

<0.5

<0.5

<0.5

<0.5 <0.5

<0.5 <0.5

<0.5

<0.5

<0.5

<0.5

<0.5

<0.5

La
(ppm)

11

13

10

Ce
(ppm)

12

10

16

12

10

10

Nd
(ppm)

13.5

9.0

16.0

2.0

4.5

6.5

4.0

4.0

5.5

7.5

7.0

4.5

4.5

4.5

6.0

Sm
(ppm)

3.5

2.5

4.0

<0.5

1.0

1.5

1.0

1.0

1.5

2.0

2.0

1.0

1.5

1.0

1.5

Table 2. Whole-rock K-Ar data for the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion, near Brisbane, Australia. (Analyst: Dr. Y.
Kapusta, Activation Laboratories, Ancaster, Canada; April, 2001). These data yield 15 point isochron ages of 1748 Ma (KAr) and 18123 Ma (40K/36Ar40Ar/36Ar).
Sample
Code

Rock Type

K2O (wt40K
%)
(ppm)

40

Ar*
(ppm)

Total 40Ar
(ppm)

40
36

Ar
Ar

/36

Ar (ppm)

40

K /36Ar

Model
Uncertainty (Ma)
Age (Ma) (1 sigma)

SDI-4E

Leuco
Gabbro

0.498

0.493

0.005445 0.007467

405.96 0.0000183 26939.9 184.2

+7

SDI-4D

Leuco
Gabbro

0.302

0.299

0.003516 0.004254

359.54 0.0000118 25338.9 195.1

+8

SDI-4C

Oxide
Gabbro

0.166

0.165

0.001804 0.002040

334.72 0.0000060 27500.0 182.7

+9

SDI-4B

Olivine
Gabbro

0.223

0.221

0.002676 0.002945

325.73 0.0000090 24555.6 201.1

+8

SDI-4A

Troctolite

0.223

0.221

0.002398 0.002657

328.03 0.0000080 27625.0 181.3

+8

SDI-3E

Leuco
Gabbro

0.224

0.222

0.002749 0.003588

386.34 0.0000092 24130.4 205.3

+8

SDI-3D

Olivine
Gabbro

0.212

0.210

0.002692 0.003818

419.73 0.0000090 23333.3 211.9

+8

SDI-3C

Troctolite

0.140

0.138

0.001870 0.002397

379.43 0.0000063 21904.8 222.7

+7

SDI-3B

Troctolite

0.100

0.099

0.001532 0.001932

373.25 0.0000051 19411.8 252.8

+9

SDI-3A

Troctolite

0.198

0.231

0.002459 0.003134

377.34 0.0000083 27831.3 208.2

+9

SDI-2B

Leuco
Gabbro

0.110

0.109

0.001590 0.001925

358.46 0.0000053 20566.0 240.3

+8

Oxide
SDI-2A6 Gabbro

0.100

0.009

0.001444 0.001851

379.55 0.0000048 20625.0 239.4

+9

Oxide
SDI-2A4 Gabbro

0.513

0.508

0.005953 0.009920

492.15 0.0000201 25273.6 194.7

+8

Oxide
SDI-2A3 Gabbro

0.251

0.248

0.002896 0.004060

415.04 0.0000097 25567.0 193.9

+7

Oxide
SDI-2A1 Gabbro

0.205

0.203

0.002250 0.003125

411.10 0.0000076 26710.5 184.9

+9

Figure 4. 40K versus 40Ar* in the Somerset Dam layered mafic


intrusion, all 15 samples being used in the isochron and age
calculations. The bars represent the two-sigma uncertainties.
Figure 4 is the 40K versus 40Ar* diagram in which all 15 samples
from the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion have been
plotted. The plotted error bars for each data point are the twosigma uncertainties, but there is still a very strong linear trend
apparent in the data, and this has been plotted as an isochron
using the Isoplot program of Ludwig83 that utilizes the leastsquares linear regression method of York.84 All 15 samples were
included in the regression calculation and produced an excellent
fit. The isochron age calculated from the slope of the line is
1748 Ma (two-sigma error). The two-sigma uncertainty in this
isochron age is very small because the two-sigma uncertainties
assigned to each of the data points are also very small. The
excellent fit of this isochron line to the data is highlighted by the
very low MSWD (mean square weighted deviatesa measure of
the ratio of the observed scatter of the data points from the bestfit line to the expected scatter from the assigned errors and error
correlations) and the very high probability (0.98). The initial 40Ar* is 0.00029 ppm, which is a very small quantity of excess
radiogenic 40Ar in violation of the assumption of zero 40Ar* in the model age technique. This K-Ar isochron age is
significantly discordant with the three sets of published K-Ar determinations on hornblende and plagioclase of Webb and
McDougall,85 recalculated by Murphy et al86,87 using the IUGS constants of Dalrymple,88 of 218 and 220 Ma, and 212 and
213 Ma respectively, which yield an averaged age of 2164 Ma. Similarly, this 15-point K-Ar isochron age of 1748 Ma is
strongly discordant with the pooled apparent age of 224.24.8 Ma based on 40Ar/39Ar determinations on three K-feldspar,
four muscovite, one hornblende and four biotite grains by Walker.89The whole-rock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic
data for all 15 samples from the intrusion are listed in Table 3. As anticipated, the radioisotopic ratios in these 15 gabbro
samples show little variation in all three radioisotope systems. This is because of the similar mineralogy in these gabbros,
and in spite of the modal variations in these minerals between the different macrolayers. Even the significantly lower
plagioclase and higher magnetite and ilmenite contents in the oxide gabbros compared to the leucogabbros (anorthosites)
makes little difference in the variations in the respective radioisotopic ratios.

Figure 5. 87Rb/86Sr versus 87Sr/86Sr diagram for the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion. Only 14 of the 15 samples were
used in the isochron and age calculations. The bars
represent the two-sigma uncertainties.
Figure 5 shows 87Rb/86Sr plotted against 87Sr/86Sr for
the layered mafic intrusion, based on the data in Table
3. The error bars again represent the two-sigma
uncertainties in the data points, which were small in
absolute terms but appear quite large with respect to
the measured radioisotopic ratios, as can be seen in
Figure 5. The regression analysis using the Isoplot
program of Ludwig90 yielded a reasonable isochron
fit to 14 of the 15 samples, with a reasonably low
MSWD and a moderate probability. The troctolite
sample SDI-3A is quite clearly an outlier. The
resultant isochron age of 393170 Ma has a large
two-sigma error, because of both the two-sigma
uncertainties of the data points and the very narrow
spread in the 87Rb/86Sr ratios of the data points. This
14-point whole-rock Rb-Sr isochron age appears to
be significantly higher than the 12-point composite
whole-rock (eight samples) and mineral (four
minerals) Rb-Sr isochron age of 225.32.3 Ma
obtained by Walker.91 Even though the two-sigma error envelope of the higher Rb-Sr isochron age obtained here includes
the lower Rb-Sr isochron age of Walker and its two-sigma error envelope, the higher age does appear discordant in
absolute terms with the younger age. The initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio obtained here is much higher than that obtained from the
isochron fit of Walker, so if the anorthosite sample SDI-4E is also excluded from the regression analysis here, the resultant
isochron line is significantly steepened with a slightly lower initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio, and thus yields an even higher isochron
age of 572310 Ma (Figure 5) that is clearly discordant with the Walker Rb-Sr isochron age.
Table 3. Whole-rock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Pb-Pb radioisotope data for the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion, near Brisbane,
Australia. (Analyst: Dr R.A. Armstrong, PRISE, Australian National University, Canberra; March-July 2002).
Cyc- Rb
Sm
87
147
Samp Rock
Sr
Rb/86S 87 86
Nd
Sm/144N 143Nd/144N
T (Ma 206Pb/204P 207Pb/204P 208Pb/204P
lical (ppm
Sr/ Sr (ppm
eNd(to) DM
le
Type
(ppm) r
(ppm) d
d
)
b
b
b
Unit )
)
SDI2A1

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

503.8
0.70292
10.15
1.92 9
0.0110 9
2.985 0
0.17782

0.512989 +6.03 686.5 18.660

15.589

38.529

SDI2A3

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

560.9
0.70294
2.71 4
0.0140 4
2.632 7.753 0.20531

0.512990 +6.05 2923.0 18.721

15.702

38.748

SDI2A4

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

596.4
0.70310
18.67
7.83 0
0.0380 3
4.878 3
0.15797

0.512956 +5.38 532.3 18.518

15.600

38.396

SDI2A6

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

622.8
0.70291
1.38 2
0.0064 6
0.366 1.679 0.13178

0.512913 +4.54 442.3 18.458

15.572

38.310

SDI2B

Anorthosit
e
3

710.0
0.70282
2.05 8
0.0083 7
0.821 3.571 0.13908

0.512939 +5.05 432.3 18.520

15.578

38.382

SDI3A

Troctolite 3

534.2
0.70274
3.77 0
0.0204 0
1.301 5.400 0.14568

0.512923 +4.74 510.2 18.538

15.578

38.422

SDI3B

Troctolite 3

498.6
0.70277
1.26 3
0.0073 7
0.724 3.265 0.13411

0.512922 +4.72 437.9 18.510

15.590

38.389

SDI3C

Troctolite 3

604.8
2.19 8
0.015

0.70285
2
0.823 3.718 0.13394

0.512906 +4.41 467.6 18.532

15.610

38.443

SDI3D

Olivin
e
gabbr
o
3

644.6
0.70291
2.85 8
0.0128 9
1.643 5.584 0.17789

0.512986 +5.97 700.6 18.632

15.598

38.550

SDI3E

Anorthosit
e
4

631.0
0.70290
3.23 3
0.0148 9
1.374 5.579 0.14893

0.512931 +4.90 516.9 18.393

15.570

38.252

SDI4A

Troctolite 4

615.3
0.70295
4.38 4
0.0206 7
1.170 5.266 0.13438

0.512902 +4.33 477.9 18.739

15.625

38.690

SDI4B

Olivin 4
e
gabbr

3.59 625.0 0.0166 0.70292 1.130 4.148 0.16474


0
5

0.512951 +5.29 657.2 18.551

15.601

38.455

o
SDI4C

Oxide
gabbr
o
4

450.6
0.70297
1.33 8
0.0085 9
1.427 4.394 0.19644

0.512986 +5.97 1454.4 18.613

15.605

38.513

SDI4D

Anorthosit
e
5

820.2
0.70304
5.06 5
0.0178 1
1.144 4.867 0.14215

0.512906 +4.41 521.3 18.861

15.604

38.611

SDI4E

Anorthosit
e
5

786.6
0.70313
16.40 8
0.0603 8
1.414 6.242 0.13694

0.512909 +4.47 479.9 18.547

15.562

38.395

Notes:
Measured, present-day 87Sr/ 86Sr ratios (2s) are normalized to 86Sr/88Sr = 0.1194
The 87Sr/86Sr ratios are reported relative to a value of 0.71020726 (2s) for the NBS standard SRM987 run with these
samples.
Measured, present-day 143Nd/144Nd ratios (2s) are normalized to 146Nd/144Nd = 0.7219
eNd (t0) refers to the present-day, calculated value relative to a depleted mantle value of 0.51268 for BCR-1
Depleted mantle model ages (TDM) calculated using present-day depleted mantle values of 143Nd/144Nd = 0.51315
and147Sm/144Nd = 0.2136
206
Pb/204Pb ratios are normalized to NBS standard SRM981 for mass fractionation, while all other ratios are calculated by a
double spiking routine.
Figure 6. 147Sm/144Nd versus 143Nd/144Nd diagram for the
Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion, all 15 samples
being used in the isochron and age calculations. The
bars represent the two-sigma uncertainties.
Figure 6 is the 147Sm/144Nd versus 143Nd/144Nd diagram
on which all 15 data points for the Somerset Dam
layered mafic intrusion in Table 3 have been plotted.
The regression analysis on all 15 data points using the
Isoplot program of Ludwig92 yielded a goodfitting
isochron with a moderate probability and a low MSWD.
The resultant isochron age of 19948 Ma has a
moderate two-sigma error due to the narrow spread in
the radioisotopic ratios, even though the two-sigma
uncertainties for the individual data points are quite
small in absolute terms. This all suggests that this is an
acceptable Sm-Nd isochron age for this intrusion,
which because of its moderate two-sigma error
envelope would appear to be concordant with both the
excellent 15-point whole-rock K-Ar isochron age of
1748 Ma obtained in this study, and the reasonable 12point composite whole-rock and mineral Rb-Sr isochron
age of 225.32.3 Ma obtained by Walker.93 Yet if the two oxide gabbro samples SDI-2A3 and SDI-4C are excluded from
the regression analysis here, the slope of the resultant isochron line is significantly steeper, resulting in a much older 13point Sm-Nd isochron age of 25976 Ma (Figure 6).
Figure 7. 206Pb/204Pb versus 207Pb/204Pb diagram for
the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion. Only 13 of
the 15 samples were used in the isochron and age
calculations. The error ellipses represent the twosigma uncertainties.
Figure 7 shows206Pb/204Pb plotted against 207Pb/204Pb
for the 15 whole-rock samples from the Somerset
Dam layered mafic intrusion listed in Table 3. Only 13
of the 15 samples were used in the regression
analysis (the oxide gabbro sample SDI-2A3 obviously
being an outlier) and yielded an isochron fit with an
age of 14251000 Ma. The probability of this fit is
moderate and the MSWD is reasonably low, while the
two-sigma uncertainties in the data points (plotted as
error ellipses in Figure 7) are reasonably small in
absolute terms, yet the two-sigma error in the
isochron age is unacceptably large because of the
extremely narrow spread in the data points.
Otherwise, it would be considered discordant with all
other isochron ages obtained on this intrusion, apart
perhaps from the Rb-Sr isochron age obtained in
this study.
Discussion
The Somerset Dam layered gabbro intrusion has been interpreted as a small sub-volcanic magma chamber located at some
35 km depth, where each cyclic unit resulted from the entry of new magma into the chamber.94, 95 The question therefore
arises as to whether it is legitimate to use these radioisotopic isochron techniques to date the intrusion, when each of these
cyclic units in effect represents a distinct event in a time sequence of infillings of this sub-volcanic magma chamber.
However, even in conventional timeframe these processes can be extremely rapid, conceivably occurring over hundreds of

years or less (in conventional terms). Such time differences cannot be detected by these radioisotopic dating techniques, so
the cyclic units in this intrusion are not only comagmatic and cogenetic, but are essentially coeval, which are necessary
conditions for the application of these radioisotopic isochron techniques. In any case, this small sub-volcanic magma
chamber has been interpreted as an open system with a connection to the surface, because a closed system would have
resulted in a gradual increase in the degree of fractionation in successive cyclic units, which is observed in many large
layered mafic intrusions such as the Skaergaard and Bushveld,96, 97, 98 but which is not observed in this Somerset Dam
layered mafic intrusion. As an open system this magma chamber would have had a connection to the surface through the
overlying volcano, with space for successive magma renewals being made available by simultaneous venting periodically to
the surface of a considerable volume of volcanic lavas. Unfortunately, the postulated vent system from this magma chamber
is not now exposed, due to the top of the intrusion having been eroded away. Walker99 invoked a cyclic model involving a
gradual increase and sudden release of pressure in the magma chamber that then explains a number of features of this
layered gabbro intrusion, including the order of its layers, their inhomogeneity and lateral extent, the variations in grain sizes,
the nature of the contact between each cyclic unit, and the similarity of the rock types in the macrolayers within the cyclic
units. A gradual increase in pressure would have occurred after a blockage of the outlet conduit, followed by a sudden
decrease when the blockage cleared with the next eruption. It is therefore obvious that this cyclic sequence responsible for
macrolayering in this intrusion would not have required large amounts of time. Thus including samples of macrolayers from
several cyclic units in regression analyses to obtain isochron ages, as has been done in this study, is totally reasonable
and permissible.The isotope plots reveal extraordinary linearity within the 40K-40Ar, 87Rb-87Sr, 147Sm-143Nd, and 207Pb-206Pb204
Pb radioisotope systems. Each of the four radioisotope pairs produces a 15-point, whole-rock plot. The four data plots
(Figures 4 through 7) contain 60 data points, with 57 points following the linear trends. It is both remarkable and significant
that only three of the whole-rock data points plot slightly off the linear trends. There is no readily apparent explanation for
this, except perhaps difficulties in the analytical procedures in obtaining precision and reproducibility because of the low
levels in the samples of elements such as Pb, a comment made by Armstrong (personal communication) with respect to the
Pb radioisotopic results plotted in Figure 7. The stray data point in Figure 5 is more problematic, the only other possible
explanation being contamination from xenoliths known to occur within the intrusion.100
Giem101 has suggested the possibility that the remarkably linear radioisotope ratios in isochron plots were derived, not by
radioactive decay, but by mixing of two compositionally-different magmas. Such a model has been discussed by Snelling,
Austin, and Hoesch102 in the context of a granophyre magma (high K, Ar, Rb, Sm, Nd, and U) supposedly having been
mixed with a diabase magma (lower K, Ar, Rb, Sm, Nd, and U) in different proportions to produce the Bass Rapids sill in
Grand Canyon. Application of a similar mixing model to the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion would have to postulate
that its macrolayering and cyclic units were produced by the mixing of two basaltic magmas with different compositions.
These two magmas, and the various mixtures of them, would never have been in an isotopically homogeneous condition, so
that the radioisotopes in them may then have formed the mixing lines in Figures 4 through 7 without radioisotope decay
within the rocks.However, mineral isochron plots provide the data critical for testing this magma mixing model.103 Mineral
phases within any single rock should be homogeneous, because the mixing model supposes rocks crystallized from large,
locally mixed, batches of melt, and since crystallization radioisotope decay has been minor. Yet in the Bass Rapids sill
Snelling et al.104 found that the radioisotopes differed significantly between mineral phases within a diabase sample.
Similarly, preliminary data obtained from the mineral phases of a gabbro sample from the Somerset Dam layered mafic
intrusion show significant differences in their radioisotopic content. Thus, significant radioisotope decay, not mixing, is
favored as the explanation for the extraordinary linearity in the isochron plots. Furthermore, the petrographic and
geochemical data from the Somerset Dam intrusion, as from other layered mafic intrusions, argues strongly that instead
unmixing has occurred as crystal fractionation and magmatic differentiation resulted in chemical and gravitational
segregation from the initially homogeneous, molten condition of a single basaltic magma. Thus the best explanation is the
exact opposite of the mixing model.Thus the 40K-40Ar, 87Rb-87Sr, 147Sm-143Nd, and 207Pb-206Pb-204Pb radioisotopic data
obtained in this study provide strong evidence that the cyclic units in the Somerset Dam layered gabbro intrusion were all
intruded while in an isotopically mixed condition from the same homogeneous source. Indeed, primary evidence of the
original homogeneous mixture of the Ar, Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes both in the magma source and throughout all the sampled
cyclic units of the layered intrusion is provided by the extraordinary linearity within the plots of the whole-rock radioisotopic
data (Figures 4 through 7). This evidence is also consistent with other inferences about the rapid sequential intrusion and
differentiation of the cyclic units of the intrusion derived from a chemically and isotopically homogeneous basaltic magma
source. Even though some 30% of the parental basaltic magma may have crystallized in transit before entering the magma
chamber,105 the subsequent mineralogical segregation to form the macrolayers within each cyclic unit was produced by
crystal accumulation, fractional crystallization, and crystal differentiation as the residual magmatic fluid compositions
changed.106 Therefore, at the time of intrusion each of the cyclic units and the macrolayers within them had the same Ar,
Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopic ratios that were inherited from the homogeneous parental basaltic magma source. This has to be
implicit in, and is conventionally by definition, the agreed initial condition of these coeval macrolayers and cyclic units in
order for radioisotopic dating of the intrusion to be achievable.However, the present parent-daughter radioisotopic ratios
within the whole-rock samples from this intrusion do not produce a consistent picture of the age of the formation of this
layered intrusion. Indeed, the four radioisotope systems yield whole-rock isochron ages that are discordant, so that it
appears difficult to constrain the age of the intrusion. However, the K-Ar whole-rock isochron is the most tightly constrained
with the best regression statistics, which thus suggests that 1748 Ma (two-sigma error) may be the true conventional age of
the intrusion. On the other hand, this 15-point whole-rock K-Ar isochron age is strongly discordant with the 12-point
combined whole-rock and mineral Rb-Sr isochron age of 225.32.3 Ma (two-sigma error) obtained by Walker,107 which in
turn is discordant with the 14-point whole-rock Rb-Sr isochron age of 393170 Ma (twosigma error) obtained in this study.
However, Walker used four data points (spiked and unspiked whole-rock determinations, and spiked K-feldspar and
muscovite determinations) from the one sample of alkali feldspar granite (granophyre) to dramatically improve the spread of
the data when plotted on the 87Rr/86Sr versus 87Sr/86Sr diagram, based on the assumption that the granophyre is related to
the layered gabbro intrusion as a late-stage differentiate from the same magma source. Yet the field relationships constrain
the relative ages so that the granophyre was emplaced after the quartz diorite, which in turn was emplaced after the layered
mafic intrusion.108, 109 Thus if the four granophyre data points are excluded from Walkers regression analysis because it is
unclear exactly how the granophyre is related to the layered intrusion, except that it has a younger relative age, then his
remaining eight data points do not define an Rb-Sr isochron and yield an age for the layered mafic intrusion. The scatter in
his data is large and the spread of data is so small.But what about the pooled apparent age of 224.24.8 Ma (two-sigma
error), based on 40Ar/39Ar determinations on three K-feldspar, four muscovite, one hornblende, and four biotite grains, that is
supposed to be confirmation of this 12-point Rb-Sr isochron age of 225.32.3 Ma?110 Is this remarkably close agreement
real or contrived? The reality is that the three K-feldspar and four muscovite grains analyzed came from the alkali feldspar
granite (granophyre), while the four biotite grains came from a quartz monzodiorite that like the granophyre is younger

relatively than the layered mafic intrusion, to which their relationship has not been clearly demonstrated. Thus only one
hornblende grain from an olivine gabbro within the mafic layered intrusion was used in the calculation of this pooled
apparent age, and that was only because it gave a similar age to the K-feldspar, muscovite and biotite grains from the
granophyre and quartz monzodiorite.111 Indeed, a total of seven integrated ages were obtained on hornblende grains from
just two samples from the layered mafic intrusion (the olivine gabbro and a troctolite), but these ages ranged from 55.26.7
Ma to 221.50.9 Ma (two-sigma error), which was clearly an unacceptable result. Thus neither the pooled Ar-Ar results nor
the Rb-Sr isochron of Walker yield an acceptable concordant conventional age for only the Somerset Dam layered mafic
intrusion. Therefore, it must be concluded that the 15-point whole-rock K-Ar isochron age of 1748 Ma (two-sigma error)
obtained in this study is the most reliable conventional age determination for the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion,
which implies that the conventional age reported in the literature should be revised upward from Late Triassic to Middle
Jurassic.This conventional age of 1748 Ma for the layered mafic intrusion therefore defines when the intrusion was
isotopically homogeneous with respect to Ar. However, the 15-point Sm-Nd isochron plot (Figure 6) is strongly linear, giving
the age for initial homogeneous Nd as 19948 Ma (two-sigma error), while the 14-point Rb-Sr isochron plot (Figure 5) is
also strongly linear, yielding the age from initial homogeneous Sr as 393170 Ma (two-sigma error). Although the
uncertainties associated with these Rb-Sr and Sm-Nd whole-rock isochrons are larger, their ages are somewhat discordant
with the K-Ar isochron age, particularly the Rb-Sr. How then could the same suite of whole rocks have Sr isotopes mix at
393170 Ma (Figure 5), but not have the Sr remixed within the whole rocks by the event that thoroughly mixed the Nd
isotopes within the same whole rocks at 19940 Ma (Figure 6), while the production of 40Ar* from radioisotopic decay of 40K
only commenced at 1748 Ma (Figure 4), assuming no initial 40A an event which presumably should have remixed both the
Sr and Nd isotopes in the same whole rocks? While the excellent 15-point K-Ar whole-rock isochron age of 1748 Ma
would seem most likely to be the true age of the initial isotopic mixing, no internally consistent age emerges from these
radioisotopic data.Austin112 has already documented four categories of discordance found in cogenetic suites of rocks, that
thus test the assumptions of radioisotopic dating. The first of these categories is when two or more wholerock isochron
ages are discordant. The whole-rock radioisotopic data reported here from the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion thus
call into question the assumptions of radioisotopic dating. However, as already argued, there is corroborative evidence that
the layered gabbro intrusion initially had a homogeneous mixture of the same Ar, Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopic ratios as in its
parental basaltic magma. Thus the assumption about initial conditions for the intrusion and these radioisotope systems must
be valid, in spite of the isochron age discordances. Furthermore, the evidence for open-system behavior is limited to
perhaps contamination of Sr in the Rb-Sr radioisotope system in one troctolite sample, so the closed-system assumption is
not unreasonable. Therefore, as already suggested by Snelling et al.,113 the differences in these isochron ages could be
due to changes in the decay rates of the different radioisotope systems at some time or times in the past, rather than being
caused by errors in the determination of the radioisotopic decay constants. According to Steiger and Jger,114 the U
decay constants have been measured to four significant figures, so no significant errors would be expected to occur in the
Pb-Pb systems. Steiger and Jger also recommend the decay constant for 87Rb of 1.42 10-11 that is in wide use, but
Begemann et al.115 have recommended a figure of 1.4060.008 10 -11. However, this small change in the decay constant
would not close the discordance between the Rb-Sr and either the Pb-Pb or Sm-Nd systems. Furthermore, Begemann et al.
reported that the decay constant for 147Sm has generally been agreed to have been determined to three significant figures
(6.54 10-12).Snelling et al.116 present data that indicate that the a-emitting radioisotopes (238U, 235U, and 147Sm) yield
older ages than the b-emitting radioisotopes (87Rb and 40K) when used to date the same geologic event. In other words, the
discordances in their calculated isochron ages are due to the different parent radioisotopes decaying at different rates over
the same time period since that geologic event. They found that their data are consistent with the possibility that a-decay
was accelerated more than b-decay at some time or times in the past. While the same pattern of discordances between the
a-emitting radioisotopes and the b-emitting radioisotopes is not as clearly evident in the radioisotopic whole-rock isochron
dating of the formation of the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion, there is comparative consistency. Perhaps the
inconsistencies are due to the youthfulness of the conventional age of the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion (Middle
Jurassic) compared to the conventional age of the Bass Rapids diabase sill in Grand Canyon (Upper Precambrian).
Additionally, the similarity in mineralogy of all the gabbros in the layered intrusion does not provide a large spread in the
concentrations of the parent radioisotopes, so a shorter real-time period of accelerated decay would yield an even narrower
spread in the values of the resultant daughter radioisotopes.Furthermore, Snelling et al.117 report that their data are also
consistent with the possibility that the longer the half-life of the a- or b-emitting radioisotope the more its decay has been
accelerated, relative to the other a- or bemitting radioisotopes, at some time or times in the past. This same pattern can be
seen between the b-emitting radioisotopes in the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion radioisotopic data. The Rb-Sr
whole-rock isochron age of 393170 Ma (Figure 5) is older than the K-Ar whole-rock isochron age of 1748 Ma (Figure
4), which is consistent with 87Rb having a longer half-life than 40K. However, the same pattern of isochron ages is not seen
for the a-emitting radioisotopes in the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion. Further similar studies of suitable rock units
are in progress in order to continue testing this suggested pattern in the effect of accelerated decay in the past on these
radioisotope systems.Finally, Snelling118 has extensively documented the role of geochemical processes in the earths
mantle and crust. These have resulted in the inheritance of radioisotopic ratios from the mantle and crustal magma sources
of the intrusive and volcanic rocks now found at the earths surface. From studies of present oceanic basalts it has been
determined that Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes can be used very effectively to identify the distinctive geochemistry of mantle
reservoirs that were the sources of the magmas found today as basaltic oceanic crust and lavas on oceanic
islands.119Because mafic rocks intruded into the earths crust were also derived by partial melting of upper mantle sources,
Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes can similarly provide valuable information on the geochemical history of the mantle during the
operation of past global tectonic processes.
Table 4. Whole-rock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Pb-Pb radioisotope data for the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion, near Brisbane,
Australia. (Analyst: Dr R.A. Armstrong, PRISE, Australian National University, Canberra; March-July 2002).
Cyc- Rb
Sm
87
147
Samp Rock
Sr
Rb/86S 87 86
Nd
Sm/144N 143Nd/144N
T (Ma 206Pb/204P 207Pb/204P 208Pb/204P
lical (ppm
Sr/ Sr (ppm
eNd(to) DM
le
Type
(ppm) r
(ppm) d
d
)
b
b
b
Unit )
)
SDI2A1

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

503.8
0.70292
10.15
1.92 9
0.0110 9
2.985 0
0.17782

0.512989 +6.03 686.5 18.660

15.589

38.529

SDI2A3

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

560.9
0.70294
2.71 4
0.0140 4
2.632 7.753 0.20531

0.512990 +6.05 2923.0 18.721

15.702

38.748

SDI2A4

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

596.4
0.70310
18.67
7.83 0
0.0380 3
4.878 3
0.15797

0.512956 +5.38 532.3 18.518

15.600

38.396

SDI2A6

Oxide
gabbr
o
2

622.8
0.70291
1.38 2
0.0064 6
0.366 1.679 0.13178

0.512913 +4.54 442.3 18.458

15.572

38.310

SDI2B

Anorthosite 3

710.0
0.70282
2.05 8
0.0083 7
0.821 3.571 0.13908

0.512939 +5.05 432.3 18.520

15.578

38.382

SDI3A

Troctolite 3

534.2
0.70274
3.77 0
0.0204 0
1.301 5.400 0.14568

0.512923 +4.74 510.2 18.538

15.578

38.422

SDI3B

Troctolite 3

498.6
0.70277
1.26 3
0.0073 7
0.724 3.265 0.13411

0.512922 +4.72 437.9 18.510

15.590

38.389

SDI3C

Troctolite 3

604.8
2.19 8
0.015

0.70285
2
0.823 3.718 0.13394

0.512906 +4.41 467.6 18.532

15.610

38.443

SDI3D

Olivin
e
gabbr
o
3

644.6
0.70291
2.85 8
0.0128 9
1.643 5.584 0.17789

0.512986 +5.97 700.6 18.632

15.598

38.550

SDI3E

Anorthosite 4

631.0
0.70290
3.23 3
0.0148 9
1.374 5.579 0.14893

0.512931 +4.90 516.9 18.393

15.570

38.252

SDI4A

Troctolite 4

615.3
0.70295
4.38 4
0.0206 7
1.170 5.266 0.13438

0.512902 +4.33 477.9 18.739

15.625

38.690

SDI4B

Olivin
e
gabbr
o
4

625.0
0.70292
3.59 0
0.0166 5
1.130 4.148 0.16474

0.512951 +5.29 657.2 18.551

15.601

38.455

SDI4C

Oxide
gabbr
o
4

450.6
0.70297
1.33 8
0.0085 9
1.427 4.394 0.19644

0.512986 +5.97 1454.4 18.613

15.605

38.513

SDI4D

Anorthosit
e
5

820.2
0.70304
5.06 5
0.0178 1
1.144 4.867 0.14215

0.512906 +4.41 521.3 18.861

15.604

38.611

SDI4E

Anorthosit
e
5

786.6
0.70313
16.40 8
0.0603 8
1.414 6.242 0.13694

0.512909 +4.47 479.9 18.547

15.562

38.395

Notes:
Measured, present-day 87Sr/86Sr ratios (2s) are normalized to 86Sr/88Sr = 0.1194
The 87Sr/86Sr ratios are reported relative to a value of 0.71020726 (2s) for the NBS standard SRM987 run with these
samples.
Measured, present-day 143Nd/144Nd ratios (2s) are normalized to 146Nd/144Nd = 0.7219
eNd (t0) refers to the present-day, calculated value relative to a depleted mantle value of 0.51268 for BCR-1
Depleted mantle model ages (TDM) calculated using present-day depleted mantle values of 143Nd/144Nd = 0.51315
and 147Sm/144Nd = 0.2136
206
Pb/204Pb ratios are normalized to NBS standard SRM981 for mass fractionation, while all other ratios are calculated by a
double spiking routine.
Table 3 lists the relevant Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopic ratios for all 15 whole-rock samples of the macrolayers in the Somerset
Dam layered gabbro intrusion. These are plotted on isotope correlation diagrams in Figure 8, which also show the isotopic
characteristics of the defined mantle reservoirs.120 Also provided in Table 3 are the calculated epsilon Nd values, eNd(to), for
the individual samples at the present day (t o) compared to the presentday value of CHUR, the CHondrite Uniform Reservoir
in the mantle.121, 122 The magnitudes of the eNd (to) values reflect the degree of the time integrated depletion in Nd relative
to CHUR. Additionally, Table 3 lists the calculated depleted mantle Nd model ages (T DM) for each of the samples. These
are calculated with reference to the present-day isotopic values for the depleted mantle (DM) reservoir from which the
continental crust is regarded as having been largely extracted over time.123, 124,125

Figure 8. Isotope correlation diagrams on which are plotted all


15 samples from the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion
(after Rollinson129). The positions of the main oceanic mantle
reservoirs identified by Zindler and Hart130 are shown: DM =
depleted mantle, BSE = bulk silicate earth, EMI and EMII =
enriched mantle I and II, HIMU = high mantle U/Pb ratio,
PREMA = frequently observed PREvalent MAntle composition.
(a) 143Nd/144Nd versus87Sr/86Sr. The mantle array is defined by
many oceanic basalts and a bulk earth value for 87Sr/86Sr can
be obtained from this trend. (b) 87Sr/86Sr versus 206Pb/204Pb.
(c) 143Nd/144Nd versus 206Pb/204Pb. The yellow field is the midocean ridge basalts (MORB). The 206Pb/204Pb value of the bulk
earth differs from that of Allegre, Lewin, and Dupre.131
The sample Nd and Sr isotopic ratios plotted in Figure 8(a) are
identical to those obtained from the Somerset Dam layered
mafic intrusion by Walker.126 The depleted mantle (DM)
region where most mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORBs) plot is
connected to the bulk silicate earth (BSE) region by the mantle
array along which most basalts from ocean islands, intraoceanic island arcs and continents plot, including mantleplume-related continental flood basalts and hot-spot
continental basalts.127The gabbros from the Somerset Dam
layered intrusion plot just outside and on the edge of the
mantle array midway between the depleted mantle reservoir
and the bulk silicate earth, within the mantle reservoir known
as mantle with high U/Pb ratio (HIMU) and adjacent to the
frequently observed prevalent mantle reservoir (PREMA). This
indicates that the mantle source material from which partial
melting produced the parental basaltic magma for the layered
gabbro intrusion was already depleted by previous extraction
of crustal magmatic materials. That is, the mantle source had
already had a history of earlier extraction of basaltic magma
by partial melting. Furthermore, there is no evidence of any
significant crustal contamination of the parental basaltic
magma to the Somerset Dam layered gabbros during its
passage from its mantle source up into the upper continental
crust.
In Figures 8(b) and (c) the Somerset Dam layered gabbros
also plot in the general area of mantle depletion, again near the PREMA mantle reservoir, but this time in proximity to the
MORB field rather than within the HIMU mantle reservoir. This is consistent with the conclusions drawn from Figure 8(a),
namely, that the mantle source of the parental basaltic magma to the layered gabbros had already had a previous history of
depletion via partial melting, and that the parental basaltic magma suffered negligible crustal contamination as it ascended
from its mantle source up into the sub-volcanic magma chamber. Furthermore, the tight clustering of the data points
throughout Figure 8 confirms that the parental basaltic magma for all the cyclic units in the Somerset Dam layered gabbro
intrusion came from the same mantle source region.Consistent with this evidence of a depleted mantle source for the
parental basaltic magma are the depleted mantle Nd model ages (T DM) of the gabbro macrolayers listed in Table 3. They
generally range between 432.3 Ma and 700.5 Ma, but two oxide gabbro samples yield much greater ages of 1454.4 Ma
and 2923.0 Ma. The depleted mantle Nd model ages are interpreted as the time in the past when the magma, that
eventually formed the gabbros represented by the samples, was separated from the mantle reservoir.128 However, all the
mineralogical, geochemical and other isotopic evidence points to the parental basaltic magma for all the cyclic units of the
layered gabbro intrusion having been extracted from the same mantle source at the same time. If the layered gabbros
conventional intrusion age is 1748 Ma, but the parental basaltic magma separated from its mantle source at, for example,
432.3 Ma, then does this imply that the magma required more than 250 million years to ascend from the mantle to the upper
crust? Certainly not, if todays magma ascension rates of only years are any guide. Perhaps this vast spread of depleted
mantle Nd model ages for these layered gabbros is further evidence of accelerated radioisotopic decay rates during the
time the parental basaltic magma was being partially melted from its mantle source, and then ascending up into the upper
crust and into the sub-volcanic magma chamber to form the layered intrusion.However, if the postulated greater acceleration
of 87Rb decay compared to 40K decay was proportional to the half-lives, then a corresponding acceleration of 147Sm decay
would also be expected to have occurred. The 147Sm/40K half-lives ratio is 83, while the 87Rb/40K half-lives ratio is 37.
However, the Sm-Nd and K-Ar isochron ages are nearly equal (19948 Ma compared with 1748 Ma). The 147Sm/87Rb halflives ratio is 2.2, yet the Sm-Nd isochron age (19948 Ma) is only about half the Rb-Sr isochron age (393170 Ma). On
the other hand, the Pb-Pb isochron age of 14251000 Ma yields a similar range of ages (4252425 Ma) to the depleted
mantle Nd model ages (432.32923.0 Ma). Thus the Pb-Pb isochron age may be a radioisotopic/geochemical signature
of the mantle source of the basaltic magma, that ascended to form the layered gabbro intrusion, similar to the depleted
mantle Nd model ages.On this basis an alternative model for the radioisotopic ages of the Somerset Dam layered gabbro
intrusion would be that the mantle source of the basaltic magma originally had K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic
ratios corresponding to ages within the 4252425 Ma range. Such radioisotopic ratios could have been geochemical
design features characteristic of the original primordial creation of the earth and its mantle, or of modifications made after
initial creation of the earth as the mantle formed via differentiation.132 Subsequently, during partial melting of the mantle
source, and ascent and intrusion of the resultant basaltic magma, these radioisotopic ratios were perturbed, the K-Ar
radioisotope system being affected the most because of Ar being an inert gas, while Rb-Sr ratios were affected less than
Sm-Nd ratios.Nevertheless, it is not inconsistent for accelerated nuclear decay to have provided the heat that powered the
differentiation of the initially created earth into its core and mantle divisions and the subsequent development of the crust out
of the mantle in the early part of the Creation Week.133 Such accelerated nuclear decay could have thus produced these
geochemical design features of vast depleted mantle Nd model ages and the age spread in the Pb radioisotopes in the
mantle source area from which the parental basaltic magma was later extracted by partial melting during the Flood to

produce the Somerset Dam gabbro intrusion with inherited radioisotopic arrays. Some additional minor accelerated nuclear
decay during the Flood may have also contributed to the radioisotopic ratios now measured in the different gabbro
macrolayers of this intrusion, particularly producing the discordances between the different radioisotope systems in the
observed pattern as a result of the acceleration factor being proportional to the half-life of each radioisotopic system. Thus
accelerated nuclear decay is the favored model for explaining the radioisotopic systematics found in this layered gabbro
intrusion.In any case, at the very least, it can be concluded that the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion has inherited the
radioisotopic signature of its mantle source, and thus its present radioisotopic ratios do not provide the true age of the
intrusion by the conventional radioisotopic dating techniques.
Conclusions
Mineralogical, geochemical, and isotopic evidences all indicate that the cyclic units of gabbro macrolayers in the Somerset
Dam layered mafic intrusion are coeval and were derived from the same parental basaltic magma. The original endowment
of Ar, Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes was homogeneously mixed, a necessary condition for successful conventional radioisotopic
dating, particularly by the isochron method. However, the four analyzed radioisotope systems yield discordant whole-rock
isochron ages. The K-Ar radioisotope system produces an excellent 15-point isochron age of 1748 Ma (Middle
Jurassic), which should be regarded as the revised conventional age of this layered intrusion because the previously
published ages that are discordant with it all rely on radioisotopic determinations on granitic rocks whose relationship to the
layered gabbro intrusion is unclear. It is thus concluded that the discordances between these radioisotope systems in dating
this same geologic event are likely due to changes in the decay rates of the different radioisotopic systems at some time or
times in the past. It would also appear that of the b-emitting radioisotopes, 87Rb with its longer half-life yields an older age
than 40K, suggesting 87Rb decay was accelerated more than 40K decay.The Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes also reveal that the
parental basaltic magma of the Somerset Dam layered gabbro intrusion was partially melted from a depleted mantle source
in a single episode, and that it suffered negligible crustal contamination as it ascended up and into the sub-volcanic magma
chamber. However, the gabbros yield depleted mantle Nd model ages that supposedly indicate this separation from the
mantle source by partial melting occurred hundreds of millions of years before the resultant basaltic magma formed the
layered intrusion. This could be better explained by accelerated radioisotopic decay rates during partial melting and magma
ascension. Nevertheless, it is concluded that the Somerset Dam layered mafic intrusion has inherited the radioisotopic
signature of its mantle source, and thus its present radioisotopic ratios do not provide its true age by the conventional
radioisotopic dating techniques.
Acknowledgments
Initial work on this research was made possible by the logistical support of Answers in Genesis (Australia) for the first
sample-collecting field trip, but the project has subsequently been fully supported by the Institute for Creation Research.
Early help and discussions with Tas Walker are acknowledged, but all the work reported here is my own. All funding of the
considerable cost of the whole-rock geochemical and radioisotopic analyses was provided by donors to the RATE
(Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project, whose contributions are gratefully acknowledged.
Radioisotopes in the Diabase Sill (Upper Precambrian) at Bass Rapids, Grand Canyon, Arizona
An Application and Test of the Isochron Dating Method
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling, Dr. Steve Austin, and Bill Hoesch on March 10, 2010
Abstract
The five-point Rb-Sr whole-rock isochron age of 1.07 Ga for the diabase sill at Bass Rapids, Grand Canyon, has been
regarded for 20 years as an excellent example of the application of conventional radioisotopic dating. Initial thorough
isotopic mixing within the sill is ideal for yielding concordant whole-rock isochron and mineral isochron ages. However, our
new K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotope data from 11 whole-rock samples (eight diabase, three granophyre) and
six mineral phases separated from one of the whole-rock diabase samples yield discordant whole-rock and mineral isochron
ages. These isochron ages range from 841.5164 Ma (whole-rock K-Ar) to 1375170 Ma (mineral Sm-Nd). Although
significant discordance exists between the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotope methods, each method appears to
yield concordant ages internally between whole rocks and minerals. Internal concordance is best illustrated by the Rb-Sr
whole rock and mineral isochron ages of 105546 Ma and 105948 Ma, respectively. It is therefore argued that only
changing radioisotope decay rates in the past could account for these discordant isochron ages for the same geologic
event. Furthermore, these data are consistent with alpha decay having been accelerated more than beta decay, and with
the longer the present half-life the greater being the acceleration factor.
Keywords: diabase, sill, Grand Canyon, potassium-argon, rubidium-strontium, samarium-neodymium, lead-lead,
radioisotopic dating, model ages, whole-rock isochron ages, mineral isochron ages, discordance, decay constants,
accelerated decay
This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, pp. 269284
(2003) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh.
Introduction
The 1.1-billion-year rubidium-strontium isochron date for the Cardenas Basalt is widely regarded as perhaps the best age
obtained for Grand Canyon strata.1, 2 Similarly, the diabase sill at Bass Rapids (fig. 1) has yielded a 1.07-billion-year
rubidium-strontium isochron date,3 providing apparent confirmation of the relationship between the diabase sills and the
Cardenas Basalt flows. The Bass Rapids diabase sill provides every indication that it was well mixed isotopically when it
was intruded, even though during cooling the sill segregated mineralogically and chemically by crystal settling to produce a
granophyre on top of the diabase. Such a condition of initial thorough isotopic mixing of the original magma body followed
by rapid chemical segregation is suited to the assumptions of whole-rock and mineral isochron dating. How then are the
radioisotope daughters distributed through the granophyre and diabase, and through the mineral phases of the latter? The
various radioisotope pairs would be expected to give concordant whole-rock isochron and mineral isochron ages. However,
published potassium-argon model ages for the diabase sills (and the Cardenas Basalt) are significantly younger than their
associated rubidium-strontium isochron ages.4, 5
Geologic Setting
Mafic igneous rocks occur as sills, dikes, and flows in the thick succession of strata making up the middle Proterozoic Unkar
Group of the Grand Canyon, Arizona (fig. 1). The Unkar Group sedimentary sequence is comprised of four formationsin
ascending order, the Bass Limestone, Hakatai Shale, Shinumo Quartzite, and the Dox Sandstonewhich are overlain by
the 300 meter plus thick flow sequence of lava flows of the Cardenas Basalt.6, 7 The younger Precambrian sediments of the
Nankoweap Formation and the Chuar Group overlie this Unkar Group succession, which unconformably rests on the early
Proterozoic metamorphic and igneous crystalline basement.8, 9, 10

Fig. 1. Location of the Bass Rapids diabase sill in Grand Canyon, northern Arizona.The diabase sills and dikes are believed
to be the intrusive equivalents of the
Cardenas lava flows, but they are not
found in direct association with the
Cardenas Basalt.11, 12, 13 Thus the
relationship between them is obscure
because the direct feeders to the
flows have never been recognized
among
the
available
diabase
outcrops. The diabase sills are, in
fact, confined to the lower part of the
Unkar Group, particularly intruding
near the boundary between the Bass
Limestone and Hakatai Shale, while
the related dikes are intruded into all
the formations above the sills along
faults
that
predate,
or
are
contemporaneous with, the sills.
These mafic sills crop out in seven
locations along a 7080 km length of
the Grand Canyon (fig. 1), whereas
the Cardenas Basalt flows are
restricted to the area around Basalt
Canyon in the eastern Grand Canyon. The sills range in thickness from 20 meters (about 65 feet) near Hance Rapids in the
east to more than 200 meters (655 feet) near Tapeats Creek in the west. They are composed chiefly of medium-grained
ophitic olivine-rich diabase that is uniform in texture and mineralogy from sill to sill in the Canyon. The dikes have a similar
composition but are finer grained, as are the chilled margins of the sills. Early in-place differentiation and crystal settling in
the sills is evidenced by granophyre layers up to 10 meters thick and felsite dikes, and by layers which are richer in
olivine.The thick sill near Bass Rapids was chosen for this study because not only are there good outcrop exposures of it,
but because there is a well-defined 6 meter thick granophyre layer on top of the 85
meter thick diabase. Furthermore, more geochemical and radioisotopic analyses
have been undertaken previously on this sill than any of the other sills.
Previous Work
Noble was the first to describe the diabase sills in the Bass Canyon-Shinumo Creek
area.14, 15 Maxson16, 17 mapped the intrusive rocks of the Grand Canyon but did
not describe the diabase sills and dikes. Detailed mapping and sampling of the sills
and dikes, and the Cardenas Basalt flows, followed by petrographic examination
and chemical analysis of the samples collected, were reported by
Hendricks18, 19 and Hendricks and Lucchitta.20 They found that chemical variation
diagrams indicated a potential common parentage for the diabase in the sills and
the lower third of the basalt flows. However, the flows in the upper two-thirds of the
Cardenas Basalt sequence were found to be much more silicic than the diabase
sills, and, therefore, it was concluded that they probably were not emplaced during
the same phase of igneous activity. Nevertheless, the mineral composition of the
unaltered basalt flows in the bottom third of the sequence is similar to that of the
diabase sills, which suggested that those lavas and the diabase sills were comagmatic and probably coeval. Thus, they concluded that the basalt lavas in the top
two-thirds of the sequence were extruded after differentiation of the parent magma.
Fig. 2. Diagrammatic section through the Bass Rapids sill showing the granophyre
capping on the diabase, the contact hornfels, and the location of
samples.Paleomagnetic observations and radioisotopic age determinations by
Elston and Gromm,21 Elston and McKee,22 and Elston23 suggest that the
diabase sills may be slightly older than the Cardenas Basalt flows, perhaps as much
as 4050 Ma. The isotopic (Rb- Sr) determinations yielded an age of 109070 Ma
for the flows of the Cardenas Basalt,24, 25whereas the sill in the Shinumo CreekBass Canyon area had a five-point isochron age of 107030 Ma.26 Although these
ages are obviously identical, the flows and sills were found to have different
initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.706500.0015 and 0.704200.0007 respectively) and
apparently distinctly different paleomagnetic pole positions. A K-Ar model age of
944 Ma was obtained on pyroxene extracted from a sample of the diabase sill,
presumably at Hance Rapids, by Ford, Breed, and Mitchell,27 while Elston and
McKee obtained two K-Ar model ages of 91340 Ma (for pyroxene in the diabase
sill at Hance Rapids), and 95430 Ma (for plagioclase from the diabase sill at
Tapeats Creek). Additionally, Elston and McKee reported a total fusion 40Ar/39Ar age
of 90735 Ma for pyroxene from the diabase sill near Shinumo Creek and a40Ar/39Ar
isochron age of 904100 Ma from seven-step incremental heating of a whole-rock
sample from the diabase sill at Tapeats Creek.Hendricks and Stevenson28, 29 have
summarized most of the details of the Unkar Group, including the diabase sills and
dikes, and the Cardenas Basalt flows. Subsequently, while focusing on the
Cardenas Basalt, Larson, Patterson, and Mutschler30 found that, whereas the
major-element chemistry of the diabase sills exhibited similarities and dissimilarities
with the lower-member flows of the Cardenas Basalt,31the trace and rare earth
element data from a sample of the sill at Hance Rapids show very similar variation
patterns to those in the lower-member flows of the Cardenas Basalt. Only Ti and P
contents were markedly higher in the sill, and the negative Eu anomaly for the sill
was smaller than that for the lower-member Cardenas Basalt flows. Thus Larson,
Patterson, and Mutschler suggested a common origin for the diabase of the sills

and the basalt of the lower-member flows similar to continental flood basalts, except that the higher Ti and P contents of the
diabase may indicate that the magma that fed the intrusions did not also directly feed the flows of the lower member.
Alternately, they suggested that the higher silica, Ti and P contents of the basalt flows were due either to greater crustal
contamination of the basalt magma on its passage to the earths surface, or heterogeneity in the mantle source.Finally,
Austin and Snelling32 obtained K-Ar data on five further samples, one from the diabase dike in Red Canyon adjacent to
Hance Rapids, one from the diabase sill near Hance Rapids, and three from the sill near Bass Rapids (one diabase and two
granophyre). The model ages ranged from 70315 Ma to 89520 Ma. When combined with the two samples analysed by
Elston and McKee,33 the K-Ar data yielded a K-Ar seven-point isochron age of 83752 Ma, significantly discordant with the
Rb-Sr five-point isochron age of 107030 Ma also obtained by Elston and McKee, and the Rb-Sr ten-point isochron age of
110366 Ma obtained by Larson, Patterson, and Mutschler34 for the Cardenas Basalt flows and a sample of the Hance
Rapids diabase sill. It was concluded that this discordance could not be explained by argon loss due to either resetting or
leakage. Austin and Snelling offered three alternative explanations(a) argon inheritance, (b) argon mixing, or (c) change in
the radioisotopic decay rates that affected 87Rb and 40K decay by different factors.
Sample Collection, Preparation and Analysis
Eleven whole rocks were collected from a composite section through the sill at Bass Rapids (north bank of the Colorado
River at mile 107.6108.0), the same section sampled by Hendricks and Lucchitta35 some 800 meters east of Shinumo
Creek. The samples were chosen to represent the overall petrographic variability within the complete thickness of the sill, as
depicted in Fig. 2. These whole-rock samples were prepared by clean laboratory techniques as -200-mesh powders for
chemical and isotopic analyses. Thin-sawed slices of the whole rocks were prepared as thin sections for petrographic
analysis. One of the eight diabase samples representative of the sill was crushed to -140 to +270 mesh grains, and the
various minerals within the powder were progressively concentrated by centrifugation in different heavy liquids, followed by
further cleaning using a strong magnet. Six mineral phases were thus separated from whole-rock diabase sample DI-13
(biotite, clinopyroxene, normal plagioclase, high-density plagioclase, olivine, and magnetite). X-ray diffraction analysis and
optical microscopy were used to confirm the identity and purity of the minerals concentrated.XRAL Laboratories of Don Mills,
Ontario, using XRF (x-ray fluorescence), ICP (inductively coupled plasma), and ICP-MS (mass spectrometer) methods,
performed chemical analyses of the whole-rock powders for 67 elements. Whole rocks were subjected to standard K-Ar
analysis by Geochron Laboratories, Cambridge, Massachusetts (R. Reesman, analyst) and Activation Laboratories,
Ancaster, Canada (Y. Kapusta, analyst). Whole rocks and mineral separates were analyzed by mass spectrometry for Rb-Sr,
Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb isotopes by the University of Colorado (G. L. Farmer, analyst). The University of Colorado
measurements of Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes were carefully calibrated by internationally recognized standards. All the resultant
isotopic data were then analyzed and isochrons plotted using the computer program called Isoplot.36
Petrography and Chemistry
The sill at Bass Rapids just east of Shinumo Creek is similar to other sills within the Unkar Group being composed of olivine
diabase, but it is capped by granophyre (fig. 2), making this sill a classic example of inplace differentiation of a basaltic
magma. The 6-m-thick granophyre consists predominantly of K feldspar (5560%) and quartz (1225%), with biotite,
plagioclase, some clinopyroxene, and titanomagnetite making up the remaining 2028%. The rock is holocrystalline, coarsegrained, and has a well-developed granophyric texture in which quartz, plagioclase, biotite, clinopyroxene, and
titanomagnetite fill interstices between the orthoclase crystals. The transition between the granophyre and diabase below
occurs over a vertical distance of less than 1 m and is a zone rich in biotite and accessory minerals.37 Apatite makes up as
much as 510% of the rock. ilmenite and sphene are prominent, and zircon with reaction halos occurs within the biotite
grains.The olivine diabase interior of the sill is medium- to coarse-grained, containing plagioclase (3045%), olivine (20
35%), clinopyroxene (1530%), titanomagnetite and ilmenite (5%), and biotite (1%), with accessory apatite and sphene. The
texture is diabasic to subophitic, although a crude alignment of feldspar laths can be seen in many places. The plagioclase
laths (composition An45-60 [4560% anorthite]) average 1.5 mm in length and are partially to completely altered to sericite.
Both normal and reverse zoning of crystals are common. Anhedral to subhedral olivine crystals up to 1 mm in diameter are
often partially altered along borders and fractures to chlorite, talc, magnetite, iddingsite, and serpentine. Fresh grain interiors
have compositions of approximately Fo80 (80% forsterite) and interference colors that suggest normal zoning. Plagioclase
laths and olivine grains are often enclosed by large, optically continuous, poikilitic clinopyroxene grains, giving the rock its
subophitic texture. The clinopyroxene is brownish-pink, non-pleochroic augite which is usually fresh. Large irregular grains
of titanomagnetite partly altered to hematite and biotite, as well as primary pleochroic brown biotite partially altered to
chlorite, occupy interstices between the plagioclase and olivine grains.The olivine concentration tends to increase towards
the center of the sill, whereas the clinopyroxene decreases. Immediately below the granophyre the diabase contains about
5% modal olivine, which increases rapidly to 2030% through the central part of the sill.38 About 15 m above the base of
the sill is an olivine-rich layer that contains about 50% modal olivine, and then the olivine content of the diabase decreases
to about 10% near the base. Hendricks39 and Hendricks and Lucchitta have suggested that this distribution of the olivine in
the sill can be explained by the process of flow differentiation, which involves the movement of early-formed olivine grains
away from the margins of the sill during flow of the intruding magma.40, 41, 42 It is envisaged that, as the magma intrudes up
through the conduit and then outward to form the sill, hydrodynamic forces concentrate toward the center of the moving
mass the olivine crystals that have formed early in the cooling history of the magma, even before the emplacement of the
sill. As the magma also moves laterally, gravity acting on the olivine crystals could have produced a gradational change in
the olivine content from the lower contact upward, while causing an abrupt change in olivine from the upper contact
downward. Once emplaced, crystallization of the remaining liquid magma within the sill would then have yielded the
remaining minerals in relatively constant proportions.43
Table 1. Whole-rock, major-element oxide and selected trace element analyses of 11 samples from the Bass Rapids sill,
Grand Canyon, northern Arizona. Sample locations are shown in Fig. 1. (Analyst: XRAL Laboratories of SGS Canada, Don
Mills, Ontario; January 1997 and February 2002).
Sample

DI-10

DI-11

DI-16

DI-17

DI-15

DI-18

DI-14

DI-13

DI-19

DI-7

DI-22

2m

3.8m

5.5m

7.5m

21m

29m

49m

59m

71m

73m

86m

SiO2 (%)

60.4

60.9

57.8

46.5

45.4

46.0

45.2

44.7

44.5

45.2

46.2

TiO2 (%)

0.903

1.18

0.03

0.16

0.25

0.16

0.17

0.18

0.17

0.16

0.21

Al2O3 (%)

14.8

15.4

14.2

11.6

13.8

15.8

14.0

14.6

12.8

15.7

14.9

Fe2O3 (%)

5.96

4.79

8.24

16.2

14.1

12.5

13.3

12.4

12.6

10.3

13.5

Position
top)

(from

MgO (%)

5.87

5.57

6.25

8.40

10.9

11.4

13.5

15.3

16.5

13.2

9.06

MnO (%)

<0.01

0.01

0.03

0.16

0.25

0.16

0.17

0.18

0.17

0.16

0.21

CaO (%)

0.27

0.09

0.65

4.16

6.89

8.13

7.68

7.80

4.16

8.48

7.15

Na2O (%)

0.57

1.47

1.63

3.15

2.06

2.18

1.86

1.87

1.71

1.93

2.23

K2O (%)

8.05

7.75

6.64

1.32

1.82

0.97

0.81

0.68

0.64

0.62

1.90

P2O5 (%)

0.03

0.02

0.32

1.23

0.51

0.26

0.28

0.09

0.27

0.19

0.43

S (%)

0.007

0.004

0.02

0.03

0.12

0.15

0.12

0.03

0.09

0.052

0.10

Lol (%)

2.85

2.90

2.95

3.15

2.2

1.75

1.85

1.2

2.7

2.4

2.45

TOTAL

99.8

100.2

100.0

99.0

99.9

100.4

100.3

100.1

100.4

99.4

100.30

Cr (ppm)

55

14

69

52

237

326

317

395

460

400

165

V (ppm)

108

116

72

200

195

142

140

88

131

110

231

Ni (ppm)

31

11

30

25

214

244

317

455

558

478

191

Co (ppm)

15

12

21

38

62

68

64

67

83

69

56

Cu (ppm)

3.4

7.9

15.6

51.4

98.3

129

63.9

30.3

55.0

31.0

101

Zn (ppm)

23.1

33.8

48.4

79.0

203

88.3

78.6

81.3

116

82.5

125

Rb (ppm)

104

106

87

23

39

23

18

16

23

14

51

Sr (ppm)

36

34

113

168

342

470

363

441

379

441

395

Zr (ppm)

228

313

349

342

160

92

116

82

116

68

161

Nb (ppm)

16

18

10

11

21

Ba (ppm)

567

633

613

327

322

184

134

167

161

239

352

Pb (ppm)

<2

<2

<2

<2

<2

<2

<2

Th (ppm)

9.4

12.0

12.2

6.4

<0.5

2.3

2.3

0.7

2.4

0.6

1.2

U (ppm)

1.9

2.5

4.0

4.8

1.7

<0.5

1.3

0.9

1.9

<0.5

0.9

La (ppm)

36.6

31.9

29.4

39.5

15.5

7.1

8.2

3.6

7.5

7.3

11.9

Ce (ppm)

80.8

68.9

65.5

94.0

38.2

17.8

20.5

8.2

18.8

16.9

29.7

Nd (ppm)

38.0

31.6

34.4

59.4

24.2

11.7

13.1

6.0

11.9

10.6

19.4

Sm (ppm)

8.1

6.2

7.9

13.3

6.3

3.1

3.3

1.5

2.9

3.2

4.6

Cl (ppm)

430

600

1050

580

1620

835

1070

363

842

954

2690

Although there is a general uniformity of the diabase throughout the sill, there are two types of textural variations, first
described by Noble.44 First, there are lumps or balls similar in mineralogy to the surrounding diabase, that is, olivine and
plagioclase with augite filling interstices. The plagioclase laths in the lumps are up to 7.5 mm in length, filling embayments in
large olivine crystals. The augite occurs as ophitic intergrowths with the plagioclase. Second, pegmatite veins consisting of
plagioclase and augite with a very similar texture are found in the upper part of the sill. These textural variations undoubtedly
represent segregation features produced during crystallization of the sill.The lower chilled margin and contact of the sill with
the underlying Hakatai Shale is covered, but is probably similar to the fine-grained chilled margins found in most of the other
sills intruding the Unkar Group in Grand Canyon. The upper contact of the sill is marked by the 6-m thick capping of
granophyre, the contact with the overlying Hakatai Shale is sharp (fig. 2), and no xenoliths of Hakatai Shale are found in the
granophyre, suggesting that it was not produced by assimilation of the shale. Instead, the transition zone between the
granophyre and the diabase beneath it in the sill suggests that the granophyre was a residual magma that floated to the top
of the sill as the diabase crystallized, so that there was little late-stage mixing of it with the diabase part of the sill.45Contact
metamorphism of the Hakatai Shale has occurred above and below the sill, the shale being altered to a knotted hornfels (fig.
2). This contact metamorphism is greater below the sill than above it. The hornfels below the sill extends for 5 m below the
contact and forms a prominent outcrop. Biotite porphyroblasts as much as 0.25 mm in size occur within 5 cm of the contact
with the sill, and at 10 cm the shale is a knotted hornfels containing porphyroblasts of andalusite and cordierite(?) that have
been replaced pseudomorphically by muscovite and green chlorite respectively. These porphyroblasts become larger and
less numerous away from the sill, reflecting a slower rate and lower density of nucleation. No recrystallization of the shale
has occurred beyond 5 m below the sill contact, while the mineralogy of the metamorphism suggests that it was of low
medium grade.The whole-rock, major element oxide and selected trace element analyses of the samples, whose locations
are shown in Fig. 2, are listed in Table 1. The major element oxide percentages are very similar to those reported by
Hendricks.46 The granophyre as expected has a much higher SiO2 content than the diabase making up the main portion of
the sill, because the granophyre contains free quartz. Similarly, the diabase has a higher Fe 2O3 and MgO content than the
granophyre because of its olivine and augite content, the MgO concentration increasing towards the central part of the sill
due to the higher olivine content there. Similarly, the higher Al 2O3 and CaO values in the center of the sill would result from
the concentration there of more calcic plagioclase. The high P 2O5 content of sample DI-17 at the top of the diabase in close
proximity to the granophyre is consistent with the apatite that is abundant in the transition zone. On a total alkalis-silica
(TAS) diagram the diabase plots in the alkali olivine basalt field,47, 48 using their own data and that of Hendricks and

Lucchitta,49 have suggested that chemically the diabase sills in the Unkar Group exhibit similarities and dissimilarities with
the lower-member flows of the Cardenas Basalt, which are commonly regarded as the extrusive equivalents of these
intrusive diabase sills.Based on selected trace element data for one sample of the Hance Rapids sill, Larson, Patterson, and
Mutschler50concluded that the variation in those data was very similar to trace element patterns for the lowermember flows
of the Cardenas Basalt. The selected trace element data in Table 1 for the Bass Rapid diabase sill are also similar.
Furthermore, the differences in trace element contents of the granophyre compared to the diabase are very obvious, and
reflect the mineralogical differences. For example, Cr, Ni, Co, Cu, and Zn are much higher in the diabase than the
granophyre, because of the olivine and trace sulfides found in the diabase that are not in the granophyre. In contrast, Ba,
Rb, La, Ce, and Nd are much higher in the granophyre than in the diabase, reflecting differences in the feldspar contents of
the two rock types, orthoclase being dominant in the granophyre, whereas plagioclase is dominant in the diabase and
contains higher Sr. The higher content of Cl in the diabase parallels the higher content of P 2O5 due to the presence of trace
apatite. Zr is as expected higher in the granophyre where zircon is more likely to be in trace amounts.
Radioisotope Results
The K-Ar analytical data and K-Ar model ages for all 11 samples are listed in Table 2. These model ages are calculated by
the standard equation of Dalrymple and Lanphere51 using the ratio of the abundances of 40Ar* (the radiogenic40Ar) to 40K
listed in Table 2. The model age method assumes no radiogenic 40Ar was present when the basaltic magma cooled to form
the diabase sill. The model ages range from 65615 Ma (million years with one-sigma error) to 105324 Ma, with the mean
age being 816 Ma (n = 11). The wide variation in these model ages is not able to be explained readily, because they are not
easily predicted by any possible sequence in the formation of the sill, such as the bottom and top of the sill cooling before
the center of the sill, or the granophyre cooling before the diabase below. Indeed, there is no recognizable pattern, except
that the model ages are discordant from one another. The mean model age for the granophyre is 863.3 Ma (n = 3),
whereas the mean model age for the diabase is 798.3 Ma (n = 8), but the model age for sample DI-14 in the center of the
diabase sill is much older at 91422 Ma. Furthermore, pairs of samples very close to one another give highly discordant
model ages, such as granophyre samples DI-10 and DI-11 which are only 1.8 m apart and yet yield model ages of 89520
Ma and 72114 Ma, and diabase samples DI-19 and DI-7 which are only 2 m apart and yet yield model ages of 86624 Ma
and 72820 Ma respectively.
Table 2. K-Ar data for the Bass Rapids diabase sill, Grand Canyon, northern Arizona. (Analysis: Dr. R. Reesman, Geochron
Laboratories, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Dr. Y. Kapusta, Activation Laboratories, Ancaster, Canada).
Model
Age
(Ma)

Uncertainty
(Ma)
(1
sigma)

131184.6

895

20

0.000078

104692.3

721

14

4875.0

0.000095

60063.2

974

20

0.1345

2388.0

0.000056

24982.1

1053

24

86.15

0.1406

2613.0

0.000054

48777.8

656

15

0.06572

76.45

0.08596

1370.0

0.000063

21301.6

692

14

0.950

0.06567

76.1

0.08629

1486.0

0.000058

16379.3

914

22

0.958

0.948

0.05014

83.45

0.06008

1896.0

0.000032

29625.0

737

18

71 m

0.778

0.770

0.04973

75.8

0.06561

1293.0

0.000051

15098.0

866

24

DI-7

73 m

0.754

0.747

0.03893

80.0

0.04866

1623.3

0.000030

24900.0

728

20

DI-22

86 m

2.157

2.135

0.11107

8.79

1.26359

3367.0

0.000375

5693.3

740

22.4

Sampl
e

Position K2O (wt40K


(from top) %)
(ppm)

40

Ar*
(ppm)

40

Ar*
(%)

Total40Ar
(ppm)

40

DI-10

2m

8.61

8.527

0.5737

96.4

0.5951

9155.4

0.000065

DI-11

3.8 m

8.245

8.166

0.4206

94.3

0.4460

5717.9

DI-16

5.5 m

5.764

5.706

0.4281

92.85

0.4611

DI-17

7.5 m

1.413

1.399

0.1162

86.4

DI-15

21 m

2.661

2.634

0.1211

DI-18

29 m

1.356

1.342

DI-14

49 m

0.959

DI-13

59 m

DI-19

36

Ar/ Ar

36

Ar (ppm)

40

36

K/ Ar

Fig. 3. 40K versus 40Ar in the Bass Rapids diabase sill, all 11
samples being used in the isochron and age calculations. The
bars represent the two-sigma uncertainties.
Fig. 3 is the 40K versus 40Ar diagram for the Bass Rapids diabase
sill. The error bars plotted with the data are the estimated twosigma uncertainties, and the strong linear trend that is apparent
is plotted as an isochron using the Isoplot program of
Ludwig52 that utilizes the least-squares linear regression
method of York.53 All 11 samples were included in the
regression calculation, although the assigned two-sigma errors
were large. The isochron age calculated from the slope of the
line is 841.5164 Ma (two-sigma error). The initial 40Ar is zero, so
this is consistent with the assumption of zero 40Ar* in the model
age technique. This K-Ar isochron age is discordant with the
published five-point Rb-Sr whole-rock isochron age for the sill of
107030 Ma.54 Note also that the slope of the line is heavily
influenced by the three granophyre data points with their high K contents due to their contained orthoclase. Because all the
samples are cogenetic it was important that all are included in the calculation, even though it leads to a large two-sigma
uncertainty in the isochron age. This large uncertainty must be due to more than analytical errors, and is thus indicative of
the minor hydrothermal alteration present (plagioclase altered to sericite) and perhaps some contamination of the
granophyre from the hornfels wall-rock during contact metamorphism.

Fig. 4. 40K/36Ar versus 40Ar/36Ar in the Bass Rapids sill, all 11


samples being used in the isochron and age calculations. The
bars show the two-sigma uncertainties.
Fig. 4 shows 40K/36Ar plotted against 40Ar/36Ar for the sill, based
on the data in Table 2. The error bars again represent the twosigma uncertainties in the data points, which again were large,
with ten of the 11 samples included in the regression analysis.
The calculated isochron age is therefore 844.7179 Ma with an
initial 40Ar/36Ar value of 249. This is much less than the present
atmospheric 40Ar/36Ar value of 295.5, and suggests the possibility
of a small Ar loss or that the regression line needs to be
appropriately adjusted. This would reduce the isochron age, and
make it even more discordant with the published Rb-Sr isochron
age, even though it would still be concordant with the K-Ar
isochron age determined here and shown in Fig. 3. Alternately,
the low 40Ar/36Ar value could indicate incorporation into the
basaltic magma of primitive argon thus inherited from its mantle
source.55The whole-rock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb
radioisotopic data for all 11 samples from the sill are
listed in Table 3. As anticipated, the radioisotopic
ratios in the three granophyre samples are distinctly
different to those obtained from the eight diabase
samples. This reflects the major and trace element
differences between these two rock types and their
different mineralogies, the granophyre having a much
higher K2O content (table 2) than the diabase
because of the abundant orthoclase in it. Thus, the
Rb content of the granophyre is higher than that of the
diabase, whereas the Sr content is higher in the
diabase because it partitions with the Ca in
plagioclase. The generally higher rare earth element
and Pb contents of the granophyre likewise leads to
significantly different radioisotopic ratios in the
granophyre compared to the diabase. These
differences are ideal for plotting of isochrons because
of the larger spreads in the radioisotopic ratios.
Fig. 5. 87Sr/86Sr versus 87Sr/86Sr diagram for the Bass
Rapids diabase sill, all 11 whole-rock samples being used in the isochron and age calculations. The bars represent the twosigma uncertainties.
Fig. 5 shows 87Rb/86Sr plotted against 87Sr/86Sr for the sill, based on the data in Table 3. The error bars again represent the
two-sigma uncertainties in the data points, which were small. The regression analysis using the Isoplot program of
Ludwig56 yielded an excellent-fitting isochron with a high probability and low MSWD (mean square of weighted deviatesa
measure of the ratio of the observed scatter of the data points from the best-fit line to the expected scatter from the assigned
errors and error correlations). The resultant isochron age of 105546 Ma is only marginally less than the five-point Rb-Sr
isochron age of 107030 Ma obtained by Elston and McKee.57 At 0.7043, the initial 87Sr/86Sr for this isochron is virtually
identical to the value of 0.704200.0007 obtained by Elston and McKee. Significantly, when we added the Rb-Sr data for the
five Elston and McKee samples to that of our 11 samples the resulting regression analysis yielded an even better 16-point
isochron with a higher probability (0.86) from the same two-sigma uncertainties for each of the data points. The isochron
age of 105544 Ma is identical, as is the initial 87Sr/86Sr. Nevertheless, the uncertainty of 44 Ma is higher than the 30 Ma
obtained by Elston and McKee, but a lot of this uncertainty is due to the poorer fit of the two high Rb granophyre samples
DI-10 and DI-11.
Table 3. Whole-rock Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic data for the Bass Rapids diabase sill, Grand Canyon, northern
Arizona. (Analyst: Associate Professor G. L. Farmer, University of Colorado) at Boulder).
Positio
147
206
Sam
Rb
Sr
Sm
Nd
Sm144N 143Nd144N
Pb204P 207Pb204P 208Pb204P
87
n (from
Rb86Sr 87Sr 86Sr
eNd(tO) TDM(Ga)
ple
(ppm) (ppm)
(ppm) (ppm) d
d
b
b
b
top)
DI10

2m

101.5 35

8.4302 0.83703 8.25

37.8

0.132

0.512070 -11.08

22.948

15.933

42.233

DI11

3.8m

95.8

33

8.439

32.59 0.150

0.511992 -12.60

25.432

16.135

45.201

DI16

5.5m

82.8

106

0.74129
2.2643 7
7.98

36.3

0.1329

0.512084 -10.81 1.80

21.923

15.878

41.482

DI17

7.5m

24.2

154

0.71332
0.4539 9
14.55 62.4

0.1411

0.512391 -4.82 1.36

19.368

15.702

38.574

DI15

21m

38.5

312

0.70913
0.3568 9
6.0

25.0

0.1456

0.512441 -3.84 1.34

17.255

15.475

36.981

DI18

29m

21.8

422

0.70635
0.1492 9
3.08

12.5

0.1495

0.512458 -3.51 1.38

17.358

15.494

37.003

DI-

49m

11.7

328

0.1026 0.70546 3.37

13.8

0.1473

0.512443 -3.80 1.37

18.355

15.561

38.154

0.82481 8.11

14

DI13

59m

15.4

383

0.70481
0.1165 8
2.65

10.8

0.1480

0.512438 -3.90 1.40

17.699

15.510

37.353

DI19

71m

16.9

329

0.70501
0.1487 9
3.60

15.0

0.1452

0.512466 -3.36 1.28

17.260

15.452

36.854

DI-7

73m

11.5

347

0.70450
0.0959 2
1.64

6.04

0.164

0.512554 -1.64

17.407

15.480

37.005

DI22

86m

51.3

371

0.71130
0.4005 6
5.13

21.1

0.1471

0.512446 -3.75 1.36

19.429

15.687

38.711

Fig. 6. 147Sm/144Nd versus 143Nd/144Nd diagram for all 11 wholerock samples of the Bass Rapids diabase sill. The bars
represent the two-sigma uncertainties. The Sm- Nd mineral
isochron of Fig. 9 is shown for comparison. The eight diabase
samples plot on the mineral isochron whereas the three
granophyre samples (DI-10, DI-11, DI-16) do not, suggesting
they have been contaminated from the hornfels wall-rock.
Fig. 6 is the 147Sm/144Nd versus 143Nd/144Nd diagram for the Bass
Rapids diabase sill using the data in Table 3. These whole-rock
samples are tightly grouped showing that little variation within
the Sm-Nd system exists within the whole rocks. No Sm-Nd age
information can be derived from the 11 whole-rock samples. All
eight diabase samples do suggest a line in Fig. 6, but
Isoplot58 attaches little age significance to it. The Sm-Nd
mineral isochron (see below) is plotted in Fig. 6 and appears to
pass through the eight whole-rock diabases. The three
granophyre samples (DI-10, DI-11, and DI-16) plot on the
diagram in a random scatter widely separated from any
apparent relationship with the eight diabase samples, which is suggestive of contamination from the overlying hornfels wallrock, perhaps by some assimilation of Nd.
Fig. 7 shows 206Pb/204Pb plotted against 207Pb/204Pb for the whole-rock samples from the Bass Rapids diabase sill. All 11
samples were used in the regression analysis and yielded an isochron fit with an age of 1249140 Ma, with a high
probability and a low MSWD. The relatively large two-sigma uncertainty in the resultant age is largely due to the size of the
two-sigma errors in the data points represented by the ellipses on the diagram. On the other hand, the three granophyre
samples give a greater spread to the data which otherwise yields good regression statistics for the isochron.
Fig. 7. 206Pb/204Pb versus 207Pb/204Pb diagram for the Bass
Rapids diabase sill, using all 11 whole-rock samples in the
isochron and age calculations. The error ellipses represent
the two-sigma uncertainties
Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic data for the six
minerals separated from the whole-rock diabase sample
DI-13 are listed in Table 4. The strong partitioning of the
relevant trace elements into the different mineral phases is
evident as expected. For example, Rb is high in the biotite,
whereas the Sr is high in the plagioclase. This was
expected to provide a good spread in the radioisotopic
data, and improve the statistics of the isochron fits.
Fig. 8 is the 87Rb/86Sr versus 87Sr/86Sr diagram for the six
mineral fractions from sample DI-13, plus the whole rock.
The regression analysis using the Isoplot program of
Ludwig59 produced an excellent isochron fit, with a very
high probability and low MSWD. The resultant isochron
age is 105948 Ma, the two-sigma uncertainty being
moderate because the two-sigma error bars on the data
points were also moderate. This mineral isochron age is, of course, totally concordant with the whole-rock Rb-Sr isochron
age (105546 Ma, Fig. 5), but at 0.70302 the initial87Sr/86Sr is marginally lower than that for the whole-rock isochron.
Table 4. Mineral Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotopic data for diabase samples DI-13 from the Bass Rapids sill, Grand
Canyon, northern Arizona. (Analyst: Associate Professor G. L. Farmer, University of Colorado at Boulder.)
147
206
Sm
Nd
Sm/144N 143Nd/144N
Pb/204P 207Pb/204P 208Pb/204P
eNd(tO) TDM(Ga)
(ppm) (ppm) d
d
b
b
b

Rb
Sr
(ppm) (ppm)

87

Wholerock

15.4

383

0.1165

0.70481
8
2.65

10.8

0.1480

0.512438 -3.90 1.40

17.699

15.510

37.353

Biotite

92.2

187

0.72474
1.4294 6
2.37

11.3

0.1266

0.512225 -8.06 1.43

17.457

15.486

37.150

Clinopyr
oxene

0.74

32.8

0.70416
0.0651 6
5.19

14.3

0.2190

0.512922 +5.54

17.463

15.477

37.191

Plagiocla
se
28.5

784

0.70476
0.1050 9
0.63

9.4

0.0408

0.511448 -23.21 1.40

17.194

15.471

36.913

Fraction

Rb/86Sr 87Sr/ 86Sr

0.36

7.62

0.70475
0.1348 2
1.15

5.9

0.1189

0.512097 -10.55 1.52

17.384

15.536

37.171

Highdensity
Plagiocla
se
27.3

634

0.70496
0.1244 7
8.96

39.1

0.1385

0.512403 -4.58 1.29

17.085

15.461

36.791

Magnetit
e
1.01

7.98

0.70840
0.3669 8
0.88

27.1

0.0196

0.511161 -28.81 1.48

18.423

15.640

38.035

Olivine

Fig. 8. 87Rb/86Sr versus 87Sr/86Sr diagram for six mineral fractions


from diabase samples DI-13 (plus the wholerock) from the Bass
Rapids diabase sill. All seven data points were used in the
isochron and age calculations, and the bars represent the twosigma uncertainties.
Fig. 9 shows the 147Sm/144Nd versus 143Nd/144Nd diagram for the
six mineral fractions, plus the whole rock, of sample DI-13 from
the Bass Rapids diabase sill. The diagram shows an excellent
large spread amongst the seven data points, from magnetite
with
the
lowest147Sm/144Nd
ratio
through
to
the
highest 147Sm/144Nd ratio in the clinopyroxene. The regression
analysis again produced an excellent isochron fit with a good
probability and a low MSWD. The resultant mineral isochron age
is 1375170 Ma. The relatively large two-sigma uncertainty in
the isochron age is of course due to the relatively large twosigma error bars for each of the data points, and to the scatter of
some of the data points (for example, the whole rock and
clinopyroxene) either side of the isochron (the line of best
fit).
Finally,
Fig.
10
shows 206Pb/204Pb
plotted
against 207Pb/204Pb for the six mineral fractions from
sample DI-13, plus the whole rock, from the Bass Rapids
diabase sill. These data are tightly grouped, showing that
uranium is not strongly partitioned within the mineral
phases within a single rock. Isoplot60 shows no significant
Pb- Pb age information can be derived from these seven
data points. However, the Pb-Pb whole-rock isochron of
Fig. 7 when plotted on Fig. 10 passes through the
twosigma error ellipses of all seven data points. Thus, the
Pb-Pb mineral data appear to be concordant with the
1249140 Ma whole-rock Pb-Pb isochron.
Discussion
Fig. 9. 147Sm/144Nd versus 143Nd/144Nd diagram for six
mineral fractions from diabase sample DI-13 (plus the
whole-rock) from the Bass Rapids diabase sill. All seven
points were used in the isochron and age calculations, and
the bars represent the two-sigma uncertainties.Isotope
plots reveal extraordinary linearity within the 40K-40Ar, 87Rb-87Sr, 147Sm-143Nd, and 207Pb-206Pb-204Pb radioisotope systems.
Each of the four radioisotope pairs produces an elevenpoint, whole-rock plot. The five data plots (Figs. 3 through
7) contain 55 data points with 51 points following linear
trends. Remarkably, only four of the whole-rock data
points plot significantly off the linear trends. Three of the
data points plotting significantly off the line in Fig. 6 are
easily explained by the granophyres assimilation of
neodymium due to contamination from the adjoining
hornfels just above the sill (Fig. 2). Certain hydrothermal
conditions have been shown to cause rare earth element
mobility in rhyolite and granite,61 the Nd isotopes being
perturbed during hydrothermal alteration. That such
hydrothermal alteration of the granophyre in the sill has
occurred during contact metamorphism with the overlying
shale is evidenced by plagioclase altered to sericite and
biotite altered to chlorite.Some creationists may want to
consider the possibility that the remarkably linear isotope
ratios within the diabase and granophyre were derived, not
by radioisotope decay, but by mixing of two different
magmas. Such a model has been proposed by
Giem62 and discussed by Austin and Snelling.63 We might suppose the sill at Bass Rapids was formed from a granophyre
magma (higher K, Ar, Rb, Sm, Nd, and U) combined with different proportions of a diabase magma (lower K, Ar, Rb, Sm, Nd,
and U). The mixing model supposes these two magmas, and their various magma mixtures, were never in an isotopically
homogeneous condition. Isotopes from these two magma types may then have formed the mixing lines in Figs. 3 through 7
without radioisotope decay within the rocks. As pointed out by Austin,64 mineral isochron plots provide the data critical for
testing the magma mixing model. Mineral phases within any single rock should be homogeneous, because the mixing model
supposes rocks crystallized from large, locally mixed, batches of melt, and since crystallization radioisotope decay has been

minor. For the Bass Rapids diabase sill, however, radioisotopes differ significantly between mineral phases within diabase
sample DI-13. Thus, significant radioisotope decay, not mixing, is the favored explanation of the extraordinary linearity.
Furthermore, the petrographic and geochemical data from the Bass Rapids sill argues that unmixing has occurred
(chemical and gravitational segregation from an initially homogeneous, molten condition). The best explanation is exactly
opposite the mixing model.
Fig. 10. 206Pb/204Pb versus 207Pb/204Pb diagram for six mineral fractions from diabase sample DI-13 (plus the whole-rock)
from the Bass Rapids diabase sill. The error ellipses represent the two sigma uncertainties, and the Pb-Pb whole-rock
isochron of Fig. 7 is shown for comparison.
40
K-40Ar, 87Rb-87Sr, 147Sm-143Nd, and 207Pb-206Pb-204Pb radioisotope data provide strong evidence that the Bass Rapids
diabase sill was intruded while in an isotopically mixed, homogeneous condition. Initially, the sill was chemically and
isotopically homogeneous when the basaltic magma was intruded rapidly into the Hakatai Shale. The subsequent
mineralogical segregation within the sill was produced by flow differentiation and gravitational settling, resulting in olivine
diabase overlain by granophyre. At that time of intrusion the different parts of the newly formed sill had the same Ar, Sr, Nd,
and Pb isotopic ratios. This must be, and is conventionally by definition, the agreed initial condition in order for radioisotopic
dating of the diabase to be achievable.What then can be said about the present isotopic ratios within whole rocks and
minerals of the sill? Do parentdaughter radioisotope ratios produce a consistent picture of the age of the sill? Two
significant Rb-Sr wholerock and mineral isochron plots (Figs. 5 and 8) appear to constrain the age of the diabase sill to
105546 Ma (two-sigma error). That is the currently accepted age of this Grand Canyon diabase according to Elston and
McKee65 and Larson, Patterson, and Mutschler66 when the diabase sill was isotopically homogeneous with respect to Sr.
However, the Sm-Nd mineral isochron plot (Fig. 9) is strongly linear giving the age from initial homogeneous Nd as
1375170 Ma (two-sigma error). Although the uncertainty associated with this Sm-Nd mineral isochron is larger, its age is
clearly discordant with Rb-Sr. How could the suite of minerals in sample DI-13 have Nd isotopes mixed at 1375170 Ma
(Fig. 9) but not have Nd remixed within the minerals by the event that thoroughly mixed the Sr isotopes within the minerals
at 105948 Ma (Fig. 8)?The Pb-Pb whole-rock isochron plot (Fig. 7) gives the age from initial homogeneous Pb as
1249140 Ma (two sigma-error), again discordant with Rb-Sr. How could the suite of whole rocks within the sill have Pb
isotopes mixed at 1249140 Ma (Fig. 7) but not have Pb remixed within the rocks by the event that thoroughly mixed the Sr
isotopes at 105546 Ma (Fig. 5)? Both of these ages are discordant with the K-Ar whole-rock isochron age (Fig. 3) of
841.5164 Ma assuming no initial 40Ar. Which of these is the true age of the initial isotopic mixing? No internally consistent
age emerges from these data.Indeed, Austin67 has already documented that, when the mineral isochron method is applied
as a test of the assumptions of radioisotopic dating, discordances inevitably result. According to Austin four categories of
discordance are found in cogenetic suites of rocks(a) two or more discordant whole-rock isochron ages, (b) a whole-rock
isochron age older than the associated mineral isochron ages, (c) two or more discordant mineral isochrons from the same
rock, and (d) a whole-rock isochron age younger than the associated mineral isochron ages. Our radioisotope data from the
Bass Rapids diabase sill exhibit all four categories of isochron discordance. Thus the assumptions of radioisotopic dating
must be questioned.However, as already argued, there is corroborative evidence that the sill initially had a homogeneous
mixture of the same Ar, Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopic ratios. Thus the assumption about the initial conditions for the sill and these
radioisotope systems must be valid. Furthermore, the evidence for open-system behavior is limited to the neodymium in the
Sm-Nd radioisotope system in the granophyre whole-rock samples (perturbed by contamination from the overlying hornfels
wall-rock), so the closed-system assumption in this instance is not unreasonable. Therefore, could the differences in the
calculated ages above be caused by errors in determining the constants of radioisotope decay? According to Steiger and
Jger,68 uranium decay constants are measured reproducibly to four significant figures. Therefore, no significant error
occurs with Pb-Pb isochrons. Steiger and Jger recommended the decay constant for87Rb of 1.42 10-11 that is in wide use,
but Begemann et al.69 recommend 1.4060.008 10-11. However, this small change would not close the discordance
between the Rb-Sr and either the Pb-Pb or Sm-Nd systems. According to Begemann et al.,70 researchers generally agree
that the decay constant for 147Sm has been determined to three significant figures (6.54 10 -12).Our data indicate that the
alpha emitters (238U, 235U, and 147Sm) have yielded older ages than the beta emitters ( 87Rb and 40K) when used to date the
same geologic event, that is, the intrusion of the Bass Rapids diabase sill. A logical explanation of these data is that the
radioisotope decay of the various parent isotopes has not always proceeded at the rates described by modern decay
constants, the discordances being due to the different parent radioisotopes decaying at different rates over the same time
period since the formation of the sill. In other words, the decay of these parent radioisotopes was accelerated by different
amounts. Thus our data are consistent with the possibility that alpha decay was accelerated more than beta decay at some
time or times in the past.Furthermore, our data also show that there is a correlation between the present radioactive decay
constants for these alpha and beta emitters and the ages they have yielded for this same geologic event. Of the alpha
emitters, 147Sm has the smallest decay constant (and thus the longest half-life) and it yielded the oldest age, a mineral
isochron age of 1375170 Ma (Fig. 9), compared to the Pb-Pb whole-rock isochron age of 1249140 Ma (Fig. 7). Similarly,
of the beta emitters, 87Rb has the smaller decay constant (and thus the longer half-life) and it yielded the older ages, a
whole-rock isochron age of 105546 Ma (Fig. 5) and a mineral isochron age of 105948 Ma (Fig. 8), compared to the K-Ar
whole-rock isochron age of 841.5164 Ma (Fig. 3). Thus our data are also consistent with the possibility that the longer the
half-life of the alpha or beta emitter the more its decay has been accelerated, relative to the other alpha or beta emitters, at
some time or times in the past.It is recommended that further similar studies of suitable rock units be undertaken to confirm
these findings.
Conclusion
The distributions of radioisotopes and their daughter isotopes in the middle Proterozoic Bass Rapids diabase sill in Grand
Canyon reveal a glaring problem with the assumptions of conventional radioisotopic dating. Even though several lines of
evidence confirm that the daughter isotopes were homogeneously mixed when the basaltic magma was intruded initially to
form the sill, the four analyzed radioisotope systems yield discordant whole-rock isochron ages for this geologic event.
Although significant discordance exists between the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb radioisotope methods, each method
appears to yield concordant ages internally between whole rocks and minerals. Internal concordance is best illustrated by
the Rb-Sr whole-rock and mineral isochron ages of 105546 Ma and 105948 Ma, respectively. Furthermore, the only
evidence of open-system behavior is contamination of the whole-rock Sm-Nd radioisotope system in the granophyre
immediately adjacent to the overlying hornfels wall-rock. Therefore, it is concluded that it is the constant decay rates
assumption of conventional radioisotopic dating that is potentially invalid, and thus changing decay rates in the past could
account for the demonstrated discordances between the resultant isochron ages. Furthermore, our data are consistent with
the possibilities that, at some time or times in the past, decay of the alpha emitters ( 238U, 235U, and 147Sm) was accelerated
more than decay of the beta emitters ( 87Rb and 40K), and the longer the present half-life of the alpha or beta emitter the more
its decay was accelerated relative to the other alpha or beta emitters.

Acknowledgments
Grand Canyon National Park provided special use permits allowing access to the remote site and granting permission to
collect rock samples. Private donors provided financial support through the RATE project, and the project preceding RATE,
both administrated at the Institute for Creation Research.

Discordant Potassium-Argon Model and Isochron Ages for Cardenas Basalt (Middle Proterozoic) and Associated
Diabase of Eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona
by Dr. Andrew A. Snelling and Dr. Steve Austin on February 3, 2010
Abstract
For more than twenty years it has been
known that the Rb-Sr and K-Ar systems
give discordant ages for Cardenas
Basalt
and
associated
Proterozoic
diabase sills and dikes of Grand Canyon.
Thirteen new K-Ar analyses of Proterozoic
mafic rocks of Grand Canyon are added to
nine published K-Ar analyses. We report a
new fourteen-point K-Ar isochron age of 516 30 Ma which is strongly discordant with the published Rb-Sr isochron age
of 1.07 0.07 Ga for Cardenas Basalt. By more than doubling the K-Ar data set we can test explanations for why the
discordance exists. Advocates of the Rb-Sr isochron, recognizing the strong geochemical similarity of rubidium and
potassium, have not argued for significant potassium addition to these rocks. Addition of potassium during alteration of
these rocks would explain the anomously young K-Ar age, but it would also add rubidium and invalidate the Rb-Sr isochron
age. Instead, advocates of the Rb-Sr isochron have argued only for significant argon loss. Two argon loss models (episodic
loss and continuous loss) are tested in an attempt to explain why these altered rocks have about half the 40Ar required by the
conventional Rb-Sr interpretation. Both argon loss models, although attempting to maintain the assumptions of conventional
geochronology, fail to explain the data, especially the new data we offer. Three models are proposed as alternatives to
argon loss models, but these invalidate using the K-Ar system as conventional geochronology would assume.
Shop Now
Keywords: basalt, diabase, Grand Canyon, potassium-argon dating, model ages, isochron ages, discordance, argon
leakage models, inheritance, mixing, change of decay
This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism, pp. 35-51
(1998) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh.
IntroductionThe Cardenas Basalt (fig. 1) is a succession of lava flows over 300-m-thick occurring deep within a thick
succession of strata in the eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona. The 1.1-billion-year Rb-Sr isochron date for the Cardenas Basalt
is widely regarded by geologists as the best age yet obtained for Grand Canyon strata.1, 2 That age agrees with what
most geologists have come to believe about other Precambrian strata and the pervasive mafic intrusive and extrusive
magmatism of the Middle Proterozoic of the southwestern United States.3, 4, 5 Although we might suppose that
radioisotopes could definitely date Cardenas Basalt, a significant problem has arisen. Published potassium-argon (K-Ar)
ages for Cardenas Basalt and Precambrian
diabase are significantly younger than their
associated
rubidium-strontium
(Rb-Sr)
ages.6 Why are K-Ar dates significantly younger
than the accepted Rb-Sr age? We seek to
examine the potassium and argon systematics of
Cardenas
Basalt
along
with
associated
Precambrian diabase dikes and sills. We seek to
test theories which explain why K-Ar ages are
significantly younger than the widely accepted RbSr isochron age.
Geology of Sills, Dikes, and Flows
Mafic igneous rocks occur as sills, dikes, and flows
in the Upper Precambrian (Proterozoic) Unkar
Group of the Grand Canyon, Arizona (figs. 1 and 2).
The extrusive rocks form a 300-m-thick flow
sequence called the Cardenas Basalt which rests
conformably on the Dox Formation in the middle of
the 4000-m-thick Proterozoic Grand Canyon
Supergroup
sedimentary
sequence.7 This
sedimentary sequence rests nonconformably on
the older metamorphic and igneous rocks, including
the Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite.
Fig. 1. Stylized block diagram showing the
stratigraphic position of Cardenas Basalt and
Precambrian Diabase in the eastern Grand
Canyon.
In the type section at Basalt Canyon8, 9 the
Cardenas Basalt consists of a 100-m-thick lower
member composed of about six, coarsely ophitic
flows of olivine basalt which vary in thickness from
about 3 to 25 m. Beds of siltstone and sandstone 1.5 to 3 m thick occur between some of the flows. All flows possess

vesicular tops and bottoms and massive to columnar-jointed central portions. Typically this lower member is poorly exposed,
weathering to spheroidal masses surrounded by granular debris. Before alteration, this mediumgrained basalt was similar in
texture and mineralogy to the sills and dikes, while petrologic and chemical data suggest to some that this lower member is
a spilitic hyaloclastite which is the altered effusive equivalent of those mafic intrusives.10 However, the spheroidal masses
may simply have resulted from onion-skin weathering rather than being suggestive of pillow structures, and therefore, the
field evidence could indicate subaerial extrusion of these lower member basalts in a series of low-viscosity pahoehoe flows.
In contrast, the 200-m-thick upper member of the Cardenas Basalt comprises four to six, aphyric, intersertal to intergranular
flows that change sequentially from basaltic andesite to basalt and then back to basaltic andesite upward through the
section. The dramatic change to the resistant, finer-grained flows of the upper member coincides with the abrupt change in
magma chemistry. Individual flows vary in thickness from about 20 to 50 m, each flow being separated from adjacent flows
by laterally persistent siltstone and sandstone beds which generally range in thickness from 0.3 to 3 m. Amygdaloidal zones,
from 2 to 5 m thick, are common near the bases and tops of the flows; scoriaceous flow breccia is conspicuous at the tops
of several of them. Some of the flows exhibit crude columnar jointing in their middle to upper portions, whereas none of the
flows exhibits any evidence of interaction with water.

Fig. 2. Location of Cardenas Basalt and Precambrian diabase in eastern Grand Canyon.
The sills are not found in direct association with the Cardenas Basalt, but are confined to the lower part of the Unkar Group,
particularly near the boundary between the Bass Formation and the Hakatai Shale, while the related dikes are intruded
above the sills along faults that predate or are contemporaneous with the sills. These mafic sills crop out in seven locations
along a 7080 km length of the Grand Canyon (fig. 2) and range in thickness from 23 to 300 m. They are composed chiefly
of medium-grained ophitic diabase. The dikes have a similar composition but are finer grained, as are the chilled margins of
the sills. Early differentiation and crystal settling in the sills is evidenced by granophyre layers up to 10-m thick and felsite
dikes, and by olivinerich layers. The relationship of these intrusives to the Cardenas flows remains obscure because direct
feeders to the flows and sills have never been recognized.
Sample Selection for K-Ar Analysis
The published geologic literature contains seven K-Ar analyses of Cardenas Basalt and two K-Ar analyses of Precambrian
diabase.11, 12, 13, 14, 15 Descriptions of these rocks are found in the appendix of this paper and the K-Ar data have been
collected into Table 1. General locations are shown in Fig. 2. Our goal was to more than double the K-Ar data for these
Precambrian rocks of Grand Canyon, allowing a better and more comprehensive interpretation of K-Ar ages. Thus,
collection of new samples of Cardenas Basalt and Precambrian diabase had three purposes:
to complement and enlarge the published isotopic data set by sampling basalt and diabase in areas or stratigraphic levels
not already described,
to select a variety of rock types, especially those with different potassium concentrations, in order to illustrate the variation of
argon as a function of potassium,
to maintain precise geographic and stratigraphic data on samples so that double-checking and further sampling could be
conducted.
Complete location data for the nine published K-Ar analyses and the 13 new analyses are found in the appendix. The new
K-Ar data have been combined with the published data into table 1. Of the 13 new analyses, eight are from Cardenas Basalt
and five are from Precambrian diabase.A total of 19 new samples of Cardenas Basalt were collected. All new samples,
except two, are from Basalt Canyon, one of the best and most studied outcrops. The Basalt Canyon section has poor
exposure of the lower third of the Cardenas Basalt, so we collected two samples from the superior exposure of the lower 50
m at Lava Chuar Canyon. A split from each sample was submitted for 66 element geochemical analysis, and a slab was
retained for thin-section petrographic analysis. The geochemical and petrographic data were used to evaluate each sample
for its suitability for K-Ar analysis. We found an extreme variation in potassium in our new samples of Cardenas Basalt from
2.1% K2O to 10.4% K2O by weight. There was also a significant variation in silica (46.6 to 57.8% by weight SiO 2). Eight
samples were selected for K-Ar analyses, including seven from Basalt Canyon (samples A:C-1, A:C-2, A:C-7, A:C-10, A:C13, A:C-16, and A:C-19) and one from Lava Chuar Canyon (sample A:C-14).Eleven new samples of Precambrian diabase
were collected. Each sample was submitted for 66 element geochemical analysis, and, after thin-section petrographic
analysis, each was evaluated for its suitability for K-Ar analysis. Five diabase samples were selected for K-Ar analysis.
Three samples (A:DI-7, A:DI-10, and A:DI-11) come from the very thick sill complex within the Hakatai Shale at Bass
Canyon, including two samples of the high-potassium granophyre zone near the top and one sample of very low-potassium

diabase near the base of the sill. One sample (A:DI-9) is from the sill within the Bass Formation at Hance Rapids, and
represents a whole-rock analysis of rock from which a pyroxene concentrate analysis has been published for the sample we
call EM:(Han). One new sample (A:DI-5) is from a dike within the Hakatai Shale at Red Canyon and probably represents the
same intrusive event that formed the diabase sill at Hance Rapids.
Sample Preparation and Analysis
Two kilogram samples of rock were returned to the petrographic laboratory and sawed to remove exterior surfaces which
could be contaminated. Thin-sawed samples of each rock were retained for thin-section petrographic analysis. Interior
blocks each representative of the whole rock and each weighing about 1 kg were washed, dried, and then crushed in an iron
mortar. After milling and grinding, the residue was sieved. The 80200 mesh (0.180.075 mm) particles were retained for KAr analysis. The approximate 20-gram split of particles finer that 200 mesh was submitted for bulk geochemical analysis (the
66 element MER package by XRAL Laboratories of Don Mills, Ontario) and the remainder of the processed rock powder
was archived with the intention of performing further isotopic analyses.
Table 1. K-Ar data for Cardenas Basalt and Precambrian diabase of Grand Canyon. Thirteen samples coded with A: are
new data collected and analyzed for this study. The other samples are from earlier publication. All samples are described in
the Appendix.
Unit/
K2O
Sample
%)
Code

(wt40

40
40
K
Ar*
Total40Ar*
K (ppm) (mol/g) x40Ar* (ppm) (mol/g) x40Ar* (%)
(ppm)
10-8
10-9

Total40Ar 36Ar
(mol/g) x(ppm)
10-8
10-5

36
Ar
x(mol/g)
10-13

UncerModel
tainty in
xAge
Ma
on
(Ma)
age (1s)

Carden
as FBM:
(Bas)
2.40

2.377

5.95

0.1507

3.77

96.6

0.1559

3.90

1.6

4.50

853

15

Carden
as
MN:b-8

3.10

3.070

7.68

0.1850

4.63

98

0.1886

4.72

1.2

3.20

820

20

Carden
as
MN:Tb8

3.33

3.298

8.25

0.1930

4.83

95

0.2050

5.08

3.1

8.60

800

20

Carden
as
MN:b-4

4.185

4.1447

10.37

0.2390

5.98

99

0.2414

6.04

0.73

2.04

791

20

Carden
as EM:
(Pal)
2.089

2.0689

5.18

0.1291

3.23

98

0.1319

3.30

0.80

2.23

843

34

Carden
as
LPM:4D 1.231

1.469

3.05

0.1077

2.70

85.2

0.1263

3.16

5.7

15.7

957

35

Carden
as
LPM:4E 1.282

1.269

3.18

0.10018

2.51

94.1

0.1063

2.66

1.9

5.18

1013

37

Carden
as A:C1
4.005

3.965

9.923

0.2822

7.06

97.4

0.2897

7.25

2.3

6.37

935

19

Carden
as A:C2
3.97

3.934

9.845

0.2448

6.13

97.1

0.2518

6.30

2.1

5.90

841

17

Carden
as A:C7
0.782

0.775

1.94

0.05887

1.47

82.8

0.0711

1.78

3.7

10.4

984

24

Carden
as A:C10
2.32

2.295

5.744

0.1049

2.62

94.3

0.1111

2.78

1.9

5.25

653

15

Carden
as A:C13
7.43

7.355

18.41

0.2907

7.27

93.4

0.3109

7.78

6.2

17.1

577

12

Carden
as A:C14
4.17

4.129

10.33

0.2023

5.06

95.2

0.2122

5.31

3.0

8.38

962

14

Carden
as A:C16
10.5

10.398

26.02

0.4133

10.3

98.7

0.4196

10.5

1.9

5.34

580

12

Carden
as A:C19
6.64

6.573

16.45

0.2878

7.20

97.7

0.2945

7.37

2.0

5.69

630

13

Diabase
EM:
(Han)
0.303

0.300

0.751

0.207

0.519

64.4

0.0322

0.806

3.5

9.71

914

40

1.307

3.27

0.0955

2.39

92.5

1.1031

2.58

2.4

6.56

954

30

Diabase 1.32
EM:

(Tap)
Diabase
A:DI-5
2.002

1.982

4.96

0.1171

2.93

89.35

0.1311

3.281

4.3

11.88

806

18

Diabase
A:DI-7
0.754

0.747

1.87

0.03893

0.974

80.0

0.0487

1.22

3.0

8.24

728

20

Diabase
A:DI-9
1.51

1.496

3.74

0.07468

1.87

89.8

0.0832

2.08

2.6

7.18

703

15

Diabase
A:DI-10 8.61

8.527

21.34

0.5737

14.36

96.4

0.5951

14.89

6.5

17.94

895

20

Diabase
A:DI-11 8.245

8.166

20.43

0.4206

10.52

94.3

0.4460

11.16

7.8

21.66

721

14

Potassium and argon were measured in the 13 new whole-rock samples by Geochron Laboratories of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, under the direction of Richard Reesman, the K-Ar laboratory manager. The 13 preparations were submitted
to Geochron Laboratories with the statement that each sample was a whole rock preparation from igneous rock of general
basaltic composition and that the lab should expect high argon concentration. The lab was not given any location or age
information.
The analytical methods used for the nine published determinations for K-Ar appear to be comparable to our 13 new
determinations. Comparability includes sample preparation, analytical technique and reporting. Two published whole-rock
Cardenas analyses (LPM:4D and LPM:4E by Larsen, Patterson, and Mutschler16) were also performed by Geochron
Laboratories using the same equipment. Three Cardenas analyses (MN:b-8, MN:Tb-6, and MN:b-4) and two diabase
analyses (EM:(Han) and EM:(Tap)) performed at the USGS lab also used flame photometry and the standard isotopedilution technique with mass spectrometer. Also, samples FBM:(Bas) and EM:(Pal) had the same analytical technique.
Therefore, we can say that the published K-Ar analyses, although performed at three or four different labs, show evidence of
significant standardization in sample preparation, analytical method, and reporting.The new analytical data as well as the
published analytical data are reported in Table 1. For comparability we have converted the data to the same format. The
concentration of K2O (weight%) was measured by the flame photometry method, the reported value being the average of
two readings from each sample. The 40K concentration (ppm) was calculated from the terrestrial isotopic abundance using
the concentration of K. The concentration in ppm of 40Ar*, the supposed radiogenic argon, was derived by the conventional
formula from isotope-dilution measurements on a mass spectrometer by correcting for the presence of atmospheric argon
whose isotopic composition is known. The concentration of 36Ar is also calculated from the 40Ar and total Ar measurements.
Petrography and Chemistry
The original mineralogy of the Cardenas lavas was difficult to decipher upon petrographic examination of the collected
samples due to their extensive alteration and some weathering effects. Nevertheless, estimates were made of each
samples original mineral composition, and these data are found in the appendix. Some data on whole-rock chemistry are
also included.According to our estimates, our samples of the lower member flows appear to have originally consisted of 45
50 vol.% plagioclase, 2025 vol.% augite, 1518 vol.% olivine, 57 vol.% titanomagnetite and ilmenite, and 510 vol.%
glass (mesostatis)/groundmass. Our apparent overestimates of the augite and olivine contents compared to those reported
by Larsen, Patterson, and Mutschler17 are due to the difficulty of distinguishing the alteration products of augite and olivine
from those of the originally glassy groundmass. Nevertheless, this mineral association and the subequant ophitic augite
grains enclosing the plagioclase laths mean the rock is appropriately classified as an olivine basalt.The post-extrusion
alteration of all lower member flows is similar. The late-stage glassy groundmass has been altered to chlorite, epidote and/or
red-brown clay, olivine has been completely replaced by chlorite, clay, and hematite, plagioclase has been largely altered to
saussurite and/or replaced by fine-grained sericite, chlorite, and clay, and augite has generally only sustained minimal
replacement by chlorite, clay, and hematite. Chlorite, calcite, and quartz (mostly chalcedony) commonly form amygdules and
vein fillings.Whereas it could be expected that this alteration may have changed the original rock chemistry, Larsen,
Patterson, and Mutschler18 used an isochron plot to show that these rocks have probably undergone minimal enrichment or
depletion of individual major-element oxides during hydration. However, because of the abundant clay alteration, the loss on
ignition (loss at 1000 C after samples initially dried to constant weight) varies between 4 and 10 wt%, which is almost
exclusively attributable to water loss. Otherwise, the variable contents of CaO (4.06.5 wt%), Na 2O (0.54.5 wt%) and K2O
(2.07.5 wt%) are due to the alteration mineralogy, while the relatively high total iron-oxide content (FeO plus
Fe2O3 analyses recalculated to give a total expressed as *FeO) averaging 10 wt% suggests a tholeiite, and the average 16.5
wt% Al2O3 is compatible with a high-alumina basalt of shoshonitic affinities.The pronounced rock-type variations of the upper
member flows are reflected in the wider ranges in the estimated original mineral compositions4560 vol.% plagioclase,
2030 vol.% augite, 518 vol.% olivine, 25 vol.% titanomagnetite and ilmenite, and 715 vol.% glass
(mesostasis)/groundmass. Larsen, Patterson, and Mutschler19reported the sporadic occurrence of pigeonite, and because
of the aphyric texture and lower olivine content suggested all the flows can be classified as tholeiitic olivine basalts or
basaltic andesites.The variable chemical alteration of the upper member flows is generally similar to that of the lower
member flows, but is often less extensive. Again the style and mineralogy of the alteration is reflected in the major-element
oxide contents in whole-rock analyses, but the loss on ignition attributable to water loss at 2.03.5 wt% is consistently much
lower than that of the lower member flows, indicative of the alteration being less extensive. Both Al 2O3 and total iron-oxide
content (as *FeO) are relatively uniform in all samples, Al 2O3 averaging about 14.4 wt% and *FeO about 12.9 wt%, with the
exception of A:C-19 with 20.1 wt% *FeO. Samples A:C-16 and A:C-19 with 10.4 wt% and 8.1 wt% K 2O respectively,
compared to the 3 wt% K2O average of the other samples, are heavily altered, but they also only contain trace CaO and
Na2O compared with the 4.3 wt% CaO and 3.5 wt% Na2O averages in the other samples.Larsen, Patterson, and
Mutschler20 concluded that some of these chemical variations between the upper member flows appear to be related to
initial differences in magma composition. They found that K 2O increased abruptly in the top two flows, while CaO decreased
abruptly (A:C-19 is our sample from the top flow). However, our samples do not follow all the chemical trends they observed
in their samples, which again emphasizes the complexity of the interplay between original magma compositions and
subsequent alteration during and after lava cooling. Nevertheless, it is possible to conclude from the major-element oxide
analyses of these rocks that they are tholeiitic, varying from quartz tholeiites to tholeiitic andesites. 21The intrusive rocks of
the sills and dikes are all diabases, except for the granophyres found segregated by differentiation at the tops of some of the
thicker sills (for example, the sill at Bass Canyon). Mineralogically, with 45 vol.% plagioclase, the diabases are similar to the
lower member flows, and they are also ophitic. However, the main observable difference between the lower member flows
and these mafic intrusives is in the color of the augite in thin section, which is in turn due to differences in the TiO 2 content of

the augite Larsen, Patterson, and Mutschler.22Chemically, the mafic intrusives exhibit similarities with the lower member
flows, but there are also dissimilarities Larsen, Patterson, and Mutschler. The diabases have not suffered alteration as
intense as that in the lower member flows (nor of that in the upper member flows), and what minor alteration there is, is
primarily sericite and chlorite. The granophyre is distinctive in outcrop due to its felsic character, marked by 2025 vol.%
quartz, 810 vol.% orthoclase, and 510 vol.% biotite.Previous workers appear to have created a conundrum in their
interpretation of K-Ar dating of these basalts and diabases. By accepting the Rb-Sr system as an isochron, they have
argued that the original rubidium in these rocks has been a closed system, a major assumption for a valid Rb-Sr isochron.
The observation of the strong linearity of Rb-Sr plots, indeed, is an argument for a closed system for rubidium in these rocks
as pointed out by Larsen, Patterson, and Mutschler.23 However, potassium is an alkali element very similar geochemically
to rubidium, and the argument, by its association, makes potassium in these basalts and diabases a closed system as well.
Workers24, 25 who have accepted the Rb-Sr isochron have not argued, for example, that potassium has been added to
these basalts and diabases during the hydration process which altered mineral phases within these rocks. Metasomatic
addition of potassium could explain younger-than-expected ages. That has not been argued, and apparently for good
reason. Instead, previous workers have questioned only the retention of argon by these rocks. Accepting an argon loss
model for these rocks, however, as we point out below, raises many inconsistencies and questions. Hence, the creation of a
conundrum. Although we agree that a strong case can be made against using the K-Ar system to date these rocks, the
concentration and isotopic abundances of argon in these rocks needs to be explained by an adequate model.
Results
Fig. 3. 40Ar versus 40K for Cardenas Basalt.
Isochron and age calculated from 14 of 15
samples. One sample data point (A:C-1) was not
included in the isochron calculation. Bars
represent 2s uncertainties.
K-Ar model ages for each of the 22 analyses
are listed in table 1. These model ages are
calculated by the standard equation of Dalrymple
and Lanphere26 using the mole ratio of 40Ar*
to 40K, both abundances being listed in table 1.
The model age method assumes no
radiogenic 40Ar was present when diabase and
lavas cooled to form rocks. For the Cardenas
Basalt the K-Ar model ages range from 57712
Ma (million years with 1s error) to 101337 Ma,
with the mean age of 816 Ma (n = 15). For the
Precambrian diabase the model ages range
from 70315 Ma to 95430 Ma, with the mean
age of 817 Ma (n = 7). Although the mean ages
for Cardenas Basalt and Precambrian diabase
are essentially the same (816 Ma), the wide
variation in model ages remains unexplained. Ages for Cardenas Basalt are not as predicted by superposition (that is,
relative positions in the succession of lava flows). For example, sample A:C-13 from the base of the Basalt Canyon section
is, therefore, the oldest of the Cardenas samples according to superposition of the lava flows. Yet, A:C-13 gives
the youngest age of all of the 15 Cardenas samples (577 Ma). Sample LPM:4E comes from near the top of the Cardenas
Basalt at about 220 m above the base, and, therefore, is one of the youngest flows according to superposition. Yet, LPM:4E
gives theoldest age of 101337 Ma. Also, discordant model ages were obtained for the granophyre zone near the top of the
sill at Bass Rapids: 89520 Ma and 72114 Ma (diabase samples A:DI-10 and A:DI-11 respectively). The geologic
observations at Bass Rapids require that the granophyre
zone represents a single cooling unit at the top of the sill
and the two samples are separated by only a few meters.
Furthermore, for the Hance Rapids diabase sill, pyroxene
mineral concentrate sample EM:(Han) gave a model age
of 91440 Ma, whereas the whole-rock sample A:DI-9
from the same sill gave 70315 Ma.
Fig. 4. 40Ar versus 40K for Precambrian diabase.
Isochron and age calculated from all seven data
points. Bars represent 2s uncertainties.
Fig. 3 is the 40Ar versus 40K graph for Cardenas Basalt.
We plot the data with 2s estimated error bars. A strong
linear trend is apparent which appears to represent an
isochron. The twoerror regression method of York27 was
used to fit the line to the data. Of the 15 points, only one
(A:C-1) was recognized by the computer operation to lie
significantly off the line, and that sample was not
included in the regression calculation. The equation of
the line is shown in Fig. 3 and is plotted. There is a
significantly non-zero 40Ar value for zero 40K, which would
appear to refute the zero 40Ar* assumption of the model
age technique. The computer calculated 40Ar initial is
1.760.27 10-9 mole/gram (2s error). The slope of that
line was used to calculate the isochron age of 51630
Ma (2s error).
Fig. 3 also includes the 1100 Ma reference isochron
which is widely assumed to be the true age of Cardenas
Basalt based on the Rb-Sr isochron.28 The 40Ar-40K data

plot significantly beneath what would be expected for 1100 Ma age and have significantly lower slope than what would be
expected for 1100 Ma age.
Fig. 5. 40Ar/36Ar versus 40K/36Ar for Cardenas Basalt. Isochron and age calculated from fourteen of fifteen data points.
Data point A:C-13 was not included in the isochron calculation. Bars represent 2s uncertainties.
Fig. 4 is the 40Ar versus 40K graph for Precambrian diabase. Two-sigma error bars and the best fit two-error regression
line29 are plotted. All seven data points are accepted by our computer model in plotting the line, the slope of which is most
strongly affected by the two highpotassium granophyre samples (A:DI-10 and A: DI-11). A very small, essentially zero, value
for initial 40Ar is calculated and the isochron age is 83752 Ma (2s error). The 1100 Ma reference isochron shows the
discordance with the 1100 Ma Rb-Sr isochron age.
Figs. 5 and 6 are the 40Ar/36Ar versus 40K/36Ar graphs for Cardenas Basalt and Precambrian diabase. Significant analytical
error builds up in the measurement of the abundance of 36Ar as the ratio of 40Ar to 36Ar increases. That is why data points in
the upper right of Figs. 5 and 6 have large error bars. Even considering these larger errors, linear trends are apparent. The
two-error regression method is used to plot lines in Figs. 5 and 6. For the 40Ar/36Ar versus 40K/36Ar plot in Fig. 5 for Cardenas
Basalt the isochron age is 75651 Ma. Most important is the y-intercept indicating significant initial 40Ar/36Ar = 787118 (2s)
which is 2.7 times higher than 40Ar/36Ar = 295.5, the present atmospheric value. This argues that a major part of the 36Ar is
not atmospheric contamination but was included in the rocks when they formed. The associated diabase of Fig. 6 gives a
linear