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Author Topic:   Creationist problems with radiocarbon dating
Coyote
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Message 1 of 194 (556344)
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


An exchange with Calibrated Thinker from another thread:

Calibrated Thinker writes:

Coyote writes:

Creation.com has the following in their "Age of the earth" page:

Radiometric dating
51. Carbon-14 in coal suggests ages of thousands of years and clearly contradict ages of millions of years.
52. Carbon-14 in oil again suggests ages of thousands, not millions, of years.
53. Carbon-14 in fossil wood also indicates ages of thousands, not millions, of years.
54. Carbon-14 in diamonds suggests ages of thousands, not billions, of years.

All four of these are absolutely wrong and reflect common errors passed from one creationist website to another.

If you want to debate these I'd be happy to oblige--on a different thread. Find one of the radiocarbon threads and post this and I'll show you where each is absolutely wrong.

What repeatable, verifiable evidence can you provide that confirms the accuracy of any of the radiometric dating methods currently used today.

I feel quite sure that we will have to agree to disagree on the veracity of dating techniques, but if you wish to go through the usual arguments, I can oblige but it is likely going to a repetition of the same debate.

I live in a coal mining town in Australia and see first hand a massive volume of evidence for a massive flood event on a whole planet scale. Interestingly atop and below each coal seam are leaves sticks and twigs that are still wood, and look very much like leaves and twigs that you find on the forest floor when bush walking. Obviously the temperature was insufficient at the margins to convert this material to anthracite as is the case only centimetres away.
By the way these coal seams are about 150 metres to 200 metres below the surface under a range of sedimentary strata that all have knife edge boundaries in the horizontal plane. My point being that this is typical of rapid deposition. Interestingly enough these are dated by radiometric methods as being late Permian 255 Ma. Amazing that sticks and leaves have lasted that long without deterioration don't you think. The seams are exposed in huge open cut pits.

The RD age doesn't fit the logical explanation that the coal and the sticks aren't as old as many would like make out. This is not hearsay, I'm talking about what I see with my own eyes.
It is the interpretation that dictates the result. ...

Go for it, the dialogue could hopefully prove to be stimulating.

I propose this thread to examine creationist claims about radiocarbon dating, and in particular the purportedly young ages that are sometimes found in materials that are actually very old.

This is important because these supposedly young ages are being used to "prove" a young earth.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Message 2 of 194 (556359)
04-19-2010 11:16 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Creationist problems with radiocarbon dating thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Percy
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Message 3 of 194 (556361)
04-19-2010 11:25 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Coyote
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


For Calibrated Thinker
Hi Calibrated Thinker! Welcome to EvC!

I had a question about this:

Calibrated Thinker writes:

Interestingly atop and below each coal seam are leaves sticks and twigs that are still wood, and look very much like leaves and twigs that you find on the forest floor when bush walking....By the way these coal seams are about 150 metres to 200 metres below the surface...

Since a cubic meter of coal weighs 1506 kilograms (more than one and a half tons for us non-metric people), it seems a bit curious to me that sticks and leaves that have been buried under a few hundred tons of rock and coal still look they're fresh from the forest floor. Shouldn't the sticks have been crushed flat and no longer looking like what you find when bush walking?

--Percy


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Coyote
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Message 4 of 194 (556369)
04-19-2010 11:59 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Coyote
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


C14 in diamonds
Lets address the C14 in diamonds issue first. Here is a link to a paper on the subject (abstract only; article must be purchased):

Taylor and Southon (2007)

Use of natural diamonds to monitor 14C AMS instrument backgrounds

R.E. Taylor and John Southon

Abstract

To examine one component of the instrument-based background in the University of California Keck Carbon Cycle AMS spectrometer, we have obtained measurements on a set of natural diamonds pressed into sample holders. Natural diamond samples (N = 14) from different sources within rock formations with geological ages greatly in excess of 100 Ma yielded a range of currents (not, vert, similar110–250 μA 12C− where filamentous graphite typically yields not, vert, similar150 μA 12C− and apparent 14C ages (64.9 ± 0.4 ka BP [0.00031 ± 0.00002 fm] to 80.0 ± 1.1 ka BP [0.00005 ± 0.00001 fm]). Six fragments cut from a single diamond exhibited essentially identical 14C values – 69.3 ± 0.5 ka–70.6 ± 0.5 ka BP. The oldest 14C age equivalents were measured on natural diamonds which exhibited the highest current yields.

What this shows is that the residual C14 is a result of instrument background. The entire Taylor and Southon experiment was designed to measure that residual background in their equipment.

Additional information can be found here.

Edited by Coyote, : Spelling


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Flyer75
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Posts: 242
From: Dayton, OH
Joined: 02-15-2010


(1)
Message 5 of 194 (556370)
04-19-2010 11:59 AM


I really look forward to reading this thread as it develops. From what I can tell in studying these issues the last few months, this topic is really the crux to either sides argument and neither side will bend on it as it's so important.

I've read very little on this so far except for some very basic papers, actually articles so I'll probably be way over my head in this topic but hopefully I learn something.

I would like to point one thing out, a presupposition if you will from the YEC side that makes it very difficult to persuade a YEC to believe in millions of years and that is that first and foremost, we believe that the Bible is literally true, that the creation event is true, that Noah's flood is true, and that Babel is true.

From what I understand, a creationist says that the problem isn't with the science itself but with the interpretation of the results.

Anyway, I'm sure this should be interesting to read and learn from, for me at least.

Edit: Coyote, can you put that in laymen's terms please. That looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics to a police officer. That's why I've never been able to understand this issue, every book I've picked up on the shelf, even from the creation side, looks like that. Thanks and sorry for the ignorance.

Edited by Flyer75, : No reason given.


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Coyote
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Message 6 of 194 (556372)
04-19-2010 12:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Coyote
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


Natural gas
Next lets look at the creationist claim about natural gas:

Natural gas from Alabama and Mississippi (Cretaceous and Eocene, respectively) — should have been 50 to 135 million years old. C14 gave dates of 30,000 and 34,000, respectively. (From Creation.com)

Analysis:

False information due to sloppy research and lack of familiarity with radiocarbon dating.

This was another difficult reference to track down because the original source is not provided. It appears that each creationist website just copies from the previous without checking the original citation. (The information in question originates in Radiocarbon, Vol. 8, page 200.)

The original source for the false information seems to be Ken Ham, Andrew Snelling, and Carl Weiland’s The Answers Book, published by Master Books, El Cajon, CA, in 1992 (page 73).

The original article in the journal Radiocarbon includes the following paragraphs describing these two samples:

I-1149. Sealy Springs well, Alabama — >34,000

From Sealy Springs Well, Cottonwood, Houston County, Alabama. Well yielding salt water and natural gas, probably from Upper Cretaceous Eutaw sandstone. Comment (D.R.B.): sample submitted as control. Infinite age as expected.

I-1150. Maxie Gas Field, Mississippi — >30,000

From Lower and Upper Cretaceous, and Eocene formations in Maxie Gas Field, Forrest County, Mississippi. Comment (D.R.B.): control sample yielding infitite age as expected.

Note the little “>” symbols in front of the dates? This means “greater than” and denotes that the measured ages reflect the limits of the instrumentation rather than an actual age. In other words, the creationists either goofed and missed the “>” symbols, or hoped that nobody would check up on their research.

Rather than serving as an example of the inaccuracy of radiocarbon dating, this refuted creationist claim serves as another example of the inaccuracy of creationist research.

Reference

Trautman, Milton A. and Eric H. Willis. Isotopes, Inc. Radiocarbon Measurements V. Radiocarbon, Vol. 8, 1966, pp. 161-203.

Note: the above is something I wrote a while back on a DarwinCentral.org blog.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Coyote
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Message 7 of 194 (556373)
04-19-2010 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Flyer75
04-19-2010 11:59 AM


Layman's terms
Coyote, can you put that in laymen's terms please.

In simple terms they put a variety of diamond samples into the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer, knowing that they contained no C14.

The results they got showed the residual C14 (extremely tiny amounts) in the machine they were using was simply instrument background.

The odd text in the abstract is some of the detail on how they know that this is instrument background rather than C14 in the diamonds. It involves fluctuations in the current feeding their ion source and correlation of the age results with those changing currents. If the C14 was in the diamond the results would not fluctuate with the current, but would remain the same. They concluded that they were seeing "ion source memory" (background) rather than C14 in ancient diamonds.

Hope this helps.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Granny Magda
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(1)
Message 8 of 194 (556374)
04-19-2010 12:24 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Percy
04-19-2010 11:25 AM


Re: For Calibrated Thinker
Here is some more food for thought, for the attention of Calibrated Thinker.

This is a picture of an actual plant remain found amongst strata that were originally layered between coal measures. I own several very much like it, all of which I gathered myself.

It came from a site at Writhlington in the UK, where old mining works on the Somerset coal measures left great spoil heaps; the layers of shale from in-between the coal seams.

Now I'm no expert, but I have to say that these plants don't look like they just came off the forest floor to me. They look a lot more like they've spent the last three hundred million years underground as part of a rock formation.

Now I've documented the sort of plant fossil that we can easily find and it's exactly what we would expect to find if the Earth were many millions of years old. Can Calibrated Thinker provide us with some evidence for these "fresh" leaves and twigs?

Mutate and Survive


"A curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it." - Jacques Monod
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Coyote
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Message 9 of 194 (556392)
04-19-2010 2:54 PM


Another flawed creationist claim
Another flawed creationist claim regarding radiocarbon dating and coal:

Coal from Russia from the “Pennsylvanian,” supposedly 300 million years old, was dated at 1,680 years. (Radiocarbon, vol. 8, 1966) Source

Analysis:

False information due to sloppy research.

This is a difficult reference to track down because the actual page number is not provided. It appears that each creationist website just copies from the previous without checking the original citation. (The information in question is on page 319.)

The original source for the false information seems to be Ken Ham, Andrew Snelling, and Carl Weiland’s The Answers Book, published by Master Books, El Cajon, CA, in 1992 (page 73).

The original article in the journal Radiocarbon includes the following paragraph describing this sample:

Mo-334. River Naryn, Kirgizia — 1680 ± 170. A.D. 270

Coal from the cultural layer on the left side of the r. Naryn (Kirgizian SSR), 3 km E of the mourh of the r. Alabuga (41° 25′ N Lat, 74° 40′ E Long). The sample was found at a depth of 7.6 m in the form of scattered coals in a loamy rock in deposits of a 26-m terrace. According to the archaeological estimations the sample dates from the 5 to 7th centuries A.D. The sample was found by K. V. Kurdyumov (Moscow State Univ.) in 1962. Comment: the find serves as a verification of archaeological data on the peopling of the Tien Shan.

What we have here is no more than shorthand or sloppy translation from the Russian! The coal is nothing more than charcoal from an archaeological deposit. This sample is even included in the section of the report dealing with archaeological samples, and the paragraph discusses archaeological data.

The odd use of terms is shown clearly in another radiocarbon date, Mo-353, reported on page 315 of the same article. It reads “Charcoal from cultural deposits of a fisher site. The coal was coll. from subturfic humified loam…”

But the term “coal” in place of “charcoal” was enough to fool Ken Ham, as well as dozens of subsequent creationists who apparently were salivating to find 300 million year old coal radiocarbon dated to recent times, and who repeated Ham’s false claim without bothering to check its accuracy.

The interesting question is where Ken Ham managed to find “Pennsylvanian” in that short paragraph, and where he dug up the date of 300 million years.

This is still another case where a creationist claim about science falls apart when examined more closely.

Reference

Vinogradov, A.P.; A.L. Devirts; E.I. Dobinka; and N.G. Markova. Radiocarbon dating in the Vernadsky Institute I-IV. Radiocarbon, Vol 8, 1966, pp. 292-323.

Note: this is something I wrote a while back as a DarwinCentral.org blog.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
  
Coyote
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Member Rating: 1.6


Message 10 of 194 (556393)
04-19-2010 3:06 PM


Still another
Still another flawed creationist claim:

Bones of a sabre-toothed tiger from the LaBrea Tar Pits (near Los Angeles), supposedly 100,000 to 1000,000 years old, gave a date of 28,000 years. (Radiocarbon, vol. 10, 1968) Source

Analysis:

The La Brea Tar Pits have been dated to approximately 9,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The original article, by Berger and Libby (1968) reported dates on 11 leg bones from sabre-tooth tigers (Smilodon californicus) recovered from the La Brea tar pits (there were 12 dates, as one bone, marked with a * below, was dated twice). These dates were:

UCLA-1292A — 21,400 ± 560*
UCLA-1292B — 12,650 ± 160
UCLA-1292C — 14,500 ± 190
UCLA-1292D — 28,000 ± 1400
UCLA-1292E — 14,400 ± 2100
UCLA-1292F — 14,950 ± 430
UCLA-1292G — 26,700 ± 900
UCLA-1292H — 21,750 ± 600
UCLA-1292I — 15,300 ± 200
UCLA-1292J — 20,500 ± 900*
UCLA-1292K — 19,300 ± 395
UCLA-1292L — 15,200 ± 800

This creationist claim is a mix of incorrect and incomplete data, and is used in a misleading manner in the original article in an attempt to cast doubt on the radiocarbon dating method.

Reference

Berger, Rainer and Willard F. Libby. UCLA Radiocarbon Dates VIII. Radiocarbon, Vol 10, No. 2, pp. 402-416.

Note: this is something I wrote a while ago for a DarwinCentral.org blog.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
  
kbertsche
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From: San Jose, CA, USA
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(1)
Message 11 of 194 (556396)
04-19-2010 3:19 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Coyote
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


RATE
quote:
Creation.com has the following in their "Age of the earth" page:

Radiometric dating
51. Carbon-14 in coal suggests ages of thousands of years and clearly contradict ages of millions of years.
52. Carbon-14 in oil again suggests ages of thousands, not millions, of years.
53. Carbon-14 in fossil wood also indicates ages of thousands, not millions, of years.
54. Carbon-14 in diamonds suggests ages of thousands, not billions, of years.

All four of these are absolutely wrong and reflect common errors passed from one creationist website to another.

If you want to debate these I'd be happy to oblige--on a different thread. Find one of the radiocarbon threads and post this and I'll show you where each is absolutely wrong.



I haven't looked into oil dates, and I'm not sure what their "fossil wood" refers to. But the coal and diamond claims relate to the ICR RATE project. I looked into these claims a few years ago, figured out how these folks had misinterpreted the data, and wrote up a detailed critique of the RATE radiocarbon claims. The report is available in at least three places on the web:
The American Scientific Affiliation
Reasons to Believe
TalkOrigins

Here is my summary:

Radioisotope evidence presents significant problems for the young earth position. Baumgardner and the RATE team are to be commended for tackling the subject, but their “intrinsic radiocarbon” explanation does not work. The previously published radiocarbon AMS measurements can generally be explained by contamination, mostly due to sample chemistry. The RATE coal samples were probably contaminated in situ. RATE’s processed diamond samples were probably contaminated in the sample chemistry. The unprocessed diamond samples probably reflect instrument background. Coal and diamond samples have been measured by others down to instrument background levels, giving no evidence for intrinsic radiocarbon.

While some materials, e.g., coals and carbonates, often do show radiocarbon contamination that cannot be fully accounted for, resorting to “intrinsic radiocarbon” raises more questions than it answers. Why do only some materials show evidence of this intrinsic radiocarbon? Why does some anthracite and diamond exist with no measurable intrinsic radiocarbon? Why is its presence in carbonates so much more variable than in other materials, e.g., wood and graphite? Why is it often found in bone carbonates but not in collagen from the same bone? Since intrinsic radiocarbon would be mistakenly interpreted as AMS process background, why do multi-laboratory intercomparisons not show a much larger variation than is observed? Why does unprocessed diamond seem to have less intrinsic radiocarbon than processed diamond?

These and many other considerations are inconsistent with the RATE hypothesis of “intrinsic radiocarbon” but are consistent with contamination and background. “Intrinsic radiocarbon” is essentially a “radiocarbon-of-the-gaps” theory. As contamination becomes better understood, the opportunities to invoke “intrinsic radiocarbon” will diminish. Most radiocarbon measurements of old materials, including many of shells and coal, can be accounted for by known contamination mechanisms, leaving absolutely no evidence for intrinsic radiocarbon. The evidence falsifies the RATE claim that “all carbon in the earth contains a detectable and reproducible ... level of 14C”


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Coyote
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Joined: 01-12-2008
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 12 of 194 (556400)
04-19-2010 4:20 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by kbertsche
04-19-2010 3:19 PM


Re: RATE
Thanks for that post. I hadn't realized you were the author of that analysis.

It appears very well done. I am particularly interested in the physics you discuss, as that is not my strong point; I do sample collection and interpretation (as an archaeologist), and I have studied those areas most intensely.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Flyer75
Member (Idle past 40 days)
Posts: 242
From: Dayton, OH
Joined: 02-15-2010


Message 13 of 194 (556457)
04-19-2010 11:49 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by kbertsche
04-19-2010 3:19 PM


Re: RATE
Hey kbertsche,

AIG made a response to your detailed critique found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/...edback-rate-contamination

Obviously, yours (and Coyote's) knowledge of this subject is way beyond what I could ever even begin to comprehend. Two basic questions though....one, did you ever respond to AIG's response to you?

And two, how is the average joe blow out here who never works in this field supposed to know the truth? How do I know that you are right and AIG is wrong, or vice versa for that matter?

Also, real quick and I hope this is the right spot to ask this, Henry Morris did a study a few years back that collected all the uniformitarian ways to rate the age of the earth, outside of radiocarbon dating (is that the right word?), and I think he came up with 66 or 67 other means, such as earth's magnetic field decay rate being one of them. He supposedly used chrisitian and secular sources for this study and of the 66, one could come up with an age older then just a few million years old, nothing close to the 4.5 billion that radiocarbon dating comes up with....is he dead wrong, am I wrong, or is there some truth to this? Thanks in advance for your answers.

Edited by Flyer75, : No reason given.


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2258 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 14 of 194 (556466)
04-20-2010 1:02 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Flyer75
04-19-2010 11:49 PM


Re: RATE
radioncarbon dating doesn't very far beyond 80k years or so if I remember correctly. (radiometric dating is a more general term which englobes radiocardbon I believe plus others who go far back to the million-billions years range)

AbE We should get Baumgardner here and do Great Debate with KBerstche (I know Baumgardner used to sometimes visits forums like this one when asked to)

Edited by slevesque, : No reason given.


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kbertsche
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From: San Jose, CA, USA
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Member Rating: 2.0


(1)
Message 15 of 194 (556467)
04-20-2010 1:07 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Flyer75
04-19-2010 11:49 PM


Re: RATE
quote:
AIG made a response to your detailed critique found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/...edback-rate-contamination

Sorry, but this is false. They did NOT respond to the critique that I referred you to. This shows that you have not read my critique. Please look at the dates on my critique and AiG's response. What AiG responded to was an earlier, much shorter critique that I had posted. The detailed critique that I linked to was written after their response, and incorporates critiques of their response as well as the original RATE report.
quote:
Obviously, yours (and Coyote's) knowledge of this subject is way beyond what I could ever even begin to comprehend. Two basic questions though....one, did you ever respond to AIG's response to you?

Yes, that's the link that I gave you! If you read it beside their response, you will see that I have addressed all of their technical points. They have yet to respond to my critique.
quote:
And two, how is the average joe blow out here who never works in this field supposed to know the truth? How do I know that you are right and AIG is wrong, or vice versa for that matter?

For the case at hand, they have not responded to my critique. And their earlier response is largely ad-hominem attacks and bald claims that they are correct. Note that they do not show where I'm wrong; they just claim that I'm wrong. In contrast, I tried to show how and where their analysis was wrong. And you can look at the spirit in which each report was done. I tried to avoid any personal attacks on Baumgardner or ICR, and to stick to a technical critique.

But in general, this is very difficult for a non-scientist to discern. The best way is to learn enough science to judge for yourself, but this takes time. The second best is to find a good scientist who you trust and ask his advice (a real working scientist, not someone on staff with ICR or AiG). The third best is to assume that mainstream scientists aren't stupid or naive, but have good reasons for their claims, so they are likely correct. If you are not comfortable with the mainstream scientific position but do not feel qualified to judge it, it is best to take a neutral position on the matter. It is dangerous and foolish to oppose the scientific mainstream if you are not a scientist.

quote:
Also, real quick and I hope this is the right spot to ask this, Henry Morris did a study a few years back that collected all the uniformitarian ways to rate the age of the earth, outside of radiocarbon dating (is that the right word?), and I think he came up with 66 or 67 other means, such as earth's magnetic field decay rate being one of them. He supposedly used chrisitian and secular sources for this study and of the 66, one could come up with an age older then just a few million years old, nothing close to the 4.5 billion that radiocarbon dating comes up with....is he dead wrong, am I wrong, or is there some truth to this? Thanks in advance for your answers.

I'm not familiar with this study. However, I suspect that he assumed too much "uniformity", assuming things are constant which we know are not. The earth's magnetic field is a classic example. It is now decaying slowly, and if extrapolated backwards at a uniform rate, would yield ridiculous values 4.65 billion years ago. But the geologic record shows us that the earth's magnetic field has actually flipped back and forth many times in a random, chaotic pattern. The assumption of a uniform magnetic field decay rate is wrong.

Edited by kbertsche, : No reason given.

Edited by kbertsche, : No reason given.


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