[asa] Denver RATE Conference (Thousands...Not Billions)_Part 3

From: Steven M Smith <smsmith@usgs.gov>
Date: Mon Oct 01 2007 - 11:01:34 EDT

Denver RATE Conference (Thousands...Not Billions)_Part 3

Continued from
Part 1 (http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200709/0498.html) and
Part 2 (http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200709/0569.html)

"Thousands ... not Billions"
Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth (RATE) Conference
Colorado Community Church, Denver, Colorado
September 15, 2007 (8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.)

[Editorial note: The following summary was compiled from my personal
handwritten notes. I do not have a recording or transcript of the
conference. Statements in "quotes" represent, to the best of my ability,
the gist of what was said, if not actual sentences and phrases. I have
tried not to interject my own ideas, opinions, or evaluations of the
conference. Some personal descriptions of people and events are included
to give a flavor of the atmosphere and audience responses. In a few
cases, I have felt the need to clarify ideas or statements by enclosing
comments in [brackets]. Without doubt, some bias in these notes is
inevitable since they represent only the points that I thought were
pertinent enough to record.]

**Dr. Russell Humphreys - Helium Diffusion Dates Rocks at 6,000 Years**

Its 11:00 a.m. Our half-hour break is over and Lawrence Ford is
introducing the next RATE speaker, Dr. Russell Humphreys: "Dr. Humphreys
has a PhD from Louisiana State and has worked at the Sandia National
Laboratory until recently when he joined the Institute of Creation
Research (ICR) full time. He has studied sodium accumulation rates in the
oceans and is the author of the book "Starlight and Time". This book
answers those questions about how starlight has reached us from stars that
evolutions say are millions of light years away. Today, we only have one
of his books remaining. I have it here. I will make it available to the
first person to see me during lunch time or you can order it online from
the bookstore at www.icr.org. We still have several of Dr. Humphreys'
Starlight and Time DVDs available at the book tables in the lobby."

Here are the "Main Points" and "Technical Definitions" given in our
conference schedule/brochure for Dr. Humphreys' talk ...

_Main Points_
* Helium leaks from radioactive crystals show that the earth is only
6,000 +/- 2,000 years old
* "1.5 Billion" years worth of radioactive decay took place within 6,000
* This speed-up decay collapses the alleged "billions of years" of
geology down to thousands of years

_Technical Definitions_
* HELIUM DIFFUSION: essentially the "leakage" of helium out of material,
in this case, zircon crystals
* ZIRCON: a crystal (of zirconium and silicon atoms) in granite. Often
contains radioactive uranium atoms, thus making it an important mineral
for dating by radioactivity
* RADIOACTIVITY: the violent emission of particles from the nuclei of
* ACCELERATED DECAY: a drastic speed-up of radioactivity during episodes
of earth's history

Following his introduction, Humphreys gives us his testimony. He was
saved in 1969 at the age of 27 in a Bible study on the Gospel of Mark
conducted near Lake Dillon in Summit County, Colorado. Before his
conversion, he was an atheist - a hard-core atheist. Like many of the
other speakers, Humphreys comes across as a likeable, personable speaker
with a sense of humor. He is distinguished looking with white hair and a
nicely trimmed white beard and mustache.

Humphreys starts with his conclusion slide. "Helium leakage from
radioactive zircons deflates "billion of years". Next we are treated to
an introduction to zircons. Zircons are tiny crystals commonly found in
granites - more specifically as inclusions inside of larger biotite mica
crystals. Small zircons may only be a few microns in size ("a germ is
about 1 micron"). Large zircons are prized as gemstones and even referred
to as "jacinth" in the Bible. When zircons crystallize, they often
incorporate radioactive uranium and thorium atoms because these elements
are chemically similar to zirconium. A zircon crystal can contain up to
4% uranium and thorium. Lead atoms, however, are not chemically similar
to zirconium atoms and are excluded from zircon crystals ("zircons love
uranium and hate lead"). Therefore, almost all of the lead found in
zircons is the result of the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium.
This makes zircon a perfect crystal for radioisotopic dating.

Every radioactive uranium-238 atom (U238) decays to a lead-206 atom
(Pb206) through a decay chain that produces 8 alpha particles. These
alpha particles pick up a few electrons and become helium atoms [Note: I
will continue to spell out 'helium' in this report rather than use the
correct element symbol of 'He' to avoid confusion with the common pronoun
'he'.] Therefore you get 8 helium atoms for every Pb206 atom present in a
zircon. Helium atoms are tiny and will eventually diffuse (leak) out of
the zircon crystal lattice. Helium is "slippery". It is a noble gas and
doesn't react or bond with anything in the crystal. The hotter the zircon
crystals are, the faster they leak helium.

In 1974, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) drilled a deep borehole
2.6 miles (4.3 km) into granodiorite (a type of granite) to explore the
underground heat there and see if it could be used for geothermal energy.
Zircons in granite from this rock core were dated at 1.5 billion years
using the uranium/lead dating method. Robert Gentry, of Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, also extracted zircons from the granites and measured higher
than expected amounts of helium retained in the crystals.

Based on Gentry's data and a report about argon (another noble gas)
diffusion in biotite, Humphreys did some calculations and predicted helium
diffusion (leakage) rates [... in zircon? ... or in biotite? ... this
point was not clear in his talk.] for a 6,000-year Creation time frame and
for a 1.5 billion-year uniformitarian time frame. These calculations were
done in 1998 and published as a diagram in the first RATE technical volume
(fig. 7, p. 348, http://www.icr.org/pdf/research/rate-all.pdf). After
apologizing for showing a data plot to the audience, Humphreys spent about
5 minutes explaining (in very simplified terms) how the graph was made and
what the implications of the diagram were. In short, the diagram was an
X-Y plot of "Leak Rates" on the X axis versus increasing temperatures on
the Y axis. There were two curves on the plot - one for leakage rates
based on 6,000 years and one for leakage rates based on 1.5 billion years
over the same temperature range. We were told that the difference in
leakage rates between the two calculations was a factor of 100,000.
Humphreys also said that "leak rates differ drastically between different

So after publishing their predictions (in RATE vol. I), RATE obtained
samples of the granodiorite from the LANL drillhole [... from LANL or from
Gentry?] and extracted zircons. The zircon crystals were sieved to obtain
only those between 50 and 75 microns since smaller zircons would not
retain as much helium as larger ones. RATE then submitted these zircons
anonymously through an intermediary (a legitimate mining company) to a
helium diffusion specialist for measurement of leakage rates. When the
data came back, Humphreys plotted it up and [slide changes to show new
graph] the new points plot EXACTLY on top of the predicted 6,000 year
leakage rates! This brought renewed applause, cheers, & hallelujahs from
the audience. So based upon the helium diffusion data, the average leak
age for those zircons is 6,000 +/- 2,000 years.

At this point, Humphreys told us that there have been some RATE critics
and that they are always looking for 'loopholes' in the RATE studies.
There are 5 alleged loopholes that critics have proposed in order to
ignore the results of the helium diffusion data. "They seem to think that
these are problems that we have never thought of or addressed!", he said.
These alleged loopholes are ...

(1) What if the zircon temperatures were cooler than you modeled?

  Response: Well we extrapolated the actual helium diffusion rate data
down to a temperature at which the rates would match the 1.5 billion year
curve. Here is what the graph would look like. (Humphreys showed an
extended version of the graph with a straight line extrapolation.) You
would need to lower the temperature to -78 degrees Celsius to get the
diffusion rates predicted by 1.5 billion years! (Here there was laughter
from the audience at those stupid critics.) No one would accept
temperatures that low down 2.6 miles in the crust! In fact, since this
was a volcanic area, uniformitarianists would suggest that the temperature
was once even hotter here.

(2) Maybe the helium entered the zircons from outside.

  Response: This is impossible. The laws of diffusion tell us that helium
will only diffuse from areas of high concentration into areas of low
concentration. The amount of helium in the zircons is about 800,000
trillion atoms/cubic centimeter. The amount of helium in the surrounding
biotite is about 4,000 trillion atoms/cc. Therefore the flow of helium
will be from the zircons into the biotite. In fact, the total amount of
helium in the biotite is about equal to the total loss from the zircons.

(3) Your experimental design was wrong for measuring realistic helium
diffusion rates. You measured helium diffusion rates from zircons in a
vacuum while in reality those zircons came from an area of high pressure
2.6 miles deep in the crust.

  Response: We had the diffusion rates measured by an independent helium
diffusion expert. They use a vacuum chamber in the laboratory because it
is easier and because in doesn't make a difference in zircons. One
thousand times atmospheric pressure doesn't affect zircons. Zircon
doesn't compress, it is a hard resistant mineral. Pressure does matter in
biotite. Some of our critics are using a bait and switch argument [...
using biotite numbers when talking about zircon? I didn't quite get this
line written down in my notes.] You can read more of our response to our
critics at TrueOrigin.com

(4) Helium diffusion rates change with increasing radiation damage. Young
zircons are pure with little or no defects. Radiation damage builds with
time. Your zircons have 1.5 billion years worth of radiation damage. The
diffusion rates will be higher.

   Response: This may be true but it doesn't matter. Radiation damage in
zircons changes the results only by a factor of 2. Our results are
100,000 times different than the 1.5 billion-year values.

(5) Helium is "slippery". [I didn't follow his description of this
argument well and have no explanatory notes.]

   Response: This argument uses my own words. I describe helium as
"slippery". The argument has no merit. I only mention it because it
comes from a prominent Old-Earth organization based in Los Angeles.

Looking at the clock, Humphreys apparently realizes that he only has a few
minutes left before lunch. The next few slides and statements were
delivered quickly with less coherent argument: The real problem is this.
We have two clocks in these zircon crystals and they disagree. We have
the helium diffusion clock that says 6,000 years and we have the
uranium/lead decay clock that says 1.5 billion years. What is the
solution? We are suggesting "accelerated nuclear decay." "Accelerated
nuclear decay only messes with the inside of an atom. Changing diffusion
rates would change basic chemistry and that has some nasty biochemical

So, one of our conclusions is that "over a billion years worth of nuclear
decay occurred during the past 6,000 years." What caused this? "I think
God did it." "We also think that decay rates changed drastically for slow
decay [radioisotopes] and less for fast decay [radioisotopes]. See the
ICR Impact 402 article from December 2006
[http://www.icr.org/article/3131/]. Some free copies of this article are
available on a table in the lobby. Also see our technical article in the
Creation Research Society Quarterly for June 2004 (CreationResearch.org).

RATE scientists went to the 2003 AGU conference in San Francisco and
presented 3 posters - One each by Snelling, Baumgardner, and Humphreys. "A
lot of people came by to talk about our work. Most were polite. Some
older scientists would disagree and would walk away with a disapproving
grunt. Many of the younger scientists would stand around and listen." See
the RATE page on the web for our posters.

To those who would criticize RATE, I would say that "you MUST read the
RATE II technical report before criticizing." This "includes information
about the problem of excess heat." You need to read the end of [my?]
chapter for a discussion on heat."

The "bottom line" is this: "RATE helium diffusion experiments support the
young world of the Scriptures."

And with that, almost exactly at 12:00 noon, Lawrence Ford dismissed us
for a box lunch that was included in the $25 price of admission - chicken
sandwiches from "Chick-fil-A", chips, a cookie, and soda pop. Members of
the local Rocky Mountain Creation Fellowship also provided a couple of
sheet cakes so that we could celebrate "Adam's Birthday" on Creation
Weekend (corresponding to the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashanah.)


Yet to come in future installments (unless there is a consensus response
that I spare this list from the continued agony of excruciating minutia):

 Dr. Donald DeYoung - Rocks Contain Evidence for Accelerated Decay.
Dr. Gary Parker - The Authority of God's Word
Q & A with RATE Scientists


(Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are my own and are not to be
attributed to my employer ... or anyone else.)

 Steven M. Smith, Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
 Box 25046, M.S. 973, DFC, Denver, CO 80225
 Office: (303)236-1192, Fax: (303)236-3200
 Email: smsmith@usgs.gov
 -USGS Nat'l Geochem. Database NURE HSSR Web Site-

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Received on Mon Oct 1 11:02:09 2007

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