[asa] Denver RATE Conference (Thousands...Not Billions)_Part 4

From: Steven M Smith <smsmith@usgs.gov>
Date: Sun Oct 07 2007 - 21:49:12 EDT
Denver RATE Conference (Thousands...Not Billions)_Part 4
 
Continued from
Part 1 (http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200709/0498.html),
Part 2 (http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200709/0569.html), and
Part 3 (http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200710/0010.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. Donald DeYoung - Rocks Contain Evidence for Accelerated Decay.**
 
The lunch break lasted for a full hour.  Since a box lunch was included in the price of the ticket and since there were no other facilities nearby, there was nothing to do once you finished eating but to check out the ICR book tables for the third time.  The selection was getting slim.
 
At 1:00 p.m. the conference resumed.  The first order of business was to introduce the entire RATE team.  There were eight RATE researchers.  We had already met two.  Dr. John Baumgardner (Ph.D. Geophysics & Space Physics; Institute of Creation Research (ICR); RATE study - Carbon-14) & Dr. Russell Humphreys (Ph.D. Physics; ICR; Helium Diffusion).  Five researchers were not present at the conference: Dr. Steven A. Austin (Ph.D. Geology; ICR; Discordance/Radioisotope Dating), Dr. Steven Boyd (Ph.D. Hebraic & Cognate Studies; The Master's College; Analysis of Hebrew Texts), Dr. Eugene Chaffin (Ph.D. Theoretical Nuclear Physics; Bob Jones University; Accelerated Nuclear Decay), Dr. Andrew Snelling (Ph.D. Geology; ICR; Radiohalos and Fission Tracks), & Dr. Larry Vardiman (Ph.D. Atmospheric Science; ICR; Team Chairman/Editor). 
 
It was time to hear from the last RATE team member.  Dr. Donald DeYoung has a Ph.D. in Physics and teaches at Grace College in Warsaw, Indiana.  DeYoung is also the current president of Creation Science Fellowship, a 1,700 member organization of which 600 hold Master's degrees or higher.  His role on the RATE team was to write the layman's book, "Thousands...Not Billions" that summarizes all of the different studies in the project.  This apparently was also DeYoung's role at the conference: His job was to summarize all of the other RATE studies.
 

The "Main Points" and "Technical Definitions" for Dr. DeYoung's talk given in our conference schedule/brochure were ...
 
_Main Points_
*  Polonium radiohalos formed rapidly under catastrophic conditions
*  Their formation is strong evidence for accelerated decay
 
_Technical Definitions_
*  RADIOHALOS: a zone of discoloration surrounding zircons caused by radioactive decay
*  DAUGHTER ISOTOPE: the isotope produced by the radioactive decay of a "parent" isotope (e.g., uranium (parent) decays into lead (daughter))
 
Like each of the preceding speakers, DeYoung began with his testimony: He became a Christian while in High School but went to an engineering college where his faith was shaken by findings of science.  It was in a seminar while DeYoung was in grad school that he was introduced to Young-Earth Creationism (YEC).  "Creationism is such a refreshing alternative to the secular scientific worldview."
 
Once he finished his testimony and began his RATE talk, I realized that DeYoung was reading his lecture to us.  It was a good delivery but he spoke very fast.  He apparently had a lot of ground to cover and a short time to get it all out.  I wrote notes as fast as I could.
 
  "The RATE effort is to take a serious look at radioisotopic dating and to give a credible alternative."
 
  "During our research we found lots of evidence for nuclear decay."  This evidence included fission tracks, radiohalos, and discordant dates.  RATE proposes an "unconvential idea" to explain all of this decay.  There was a "temporary, large scale, acceleration of nuclear decay" (involving the large scale reduction of half-life decay rates).  This episode or episodes of accelerated nuclear decay involves space as well - the whole Creation.
 

__Fission Tracks__
DeYoung tackled the topic of fission tracks first.  99% of all natural uranium is the isotope U-238.  The parent U-238 goes through a chain of decays (giving off those 8 alpha particles or helium atoms discussed by Dr. Humphreys) to become the daughter Pb-206 isotope.  However, a small portion of U-238 spontaneously undergoes a fission reaction splitting the atom into two fragments that leave tracks of damage as they tear through the crystal structure.  As an analogy, the particles are like a runaway truck plowing through a parking lot of parked cars leaving a trail of damage behind.  The number of tracks in a mineral crystal (typically zircon) is proportional to the amount of total U-238 decay.  "Fission track dating has been available for 50 years."  You simply separate out the zircon crystals, attach them to a microscope slide, grind them down to expose an interior surface and then etch them in acid to enlarge the tracks.  The number of tracks counted per a known surface area is proportional to the length of time during which the tracks accumulated.  These "fission tracks will disappear if heated".
 
Zircon crystals are commonly used for fission track dating.  They are resistant to weathering and change.  DeYoung even mentioned the Australian zircons that were recently dated as 4.3 billion years old.  [This fact brought snorts of derision from some of the audience.] 
 
According to the Creation model, the Flood occurred about 4,500 years ago and there were episodes of volcanic eruption during the Flood. So RATE sampled volcanic tuffs [deposits of volcanic ash] at various levels for zircon crystals.  The sampled locations include ...
 
* A tuff in the Tapeats Sandstone within the Grand Canyon.  This Paleozoic rock is considered by RATE to be an "early Flood" rock.  Zircons within this tuff have 500 million years of decay at today's rates.
 
* A tuff in the Morrison Formation near Blanding, Utah.  This Mesozoic rock is considered by RATE to be "middle stages of the Flood" rock.  Zircons within this tuff have 136 million years of decay at today's rates.
 
* The Peach Springs Tuff near Kingman, Arizona.  This Cenozoic rock is considered by RATE to be "late Flood" rock [or possibly post-Flood?].  Zircons within this tuff have 21 million years of decay at today's rates.
 
The reason that this may be post-Flood is that DeYoung then stated, "Accelerated nuclear decay must have continued for some time following the Flood."
 
Since the RATE team was "confined by the Authority of the Bible to a 6,000-year timeframe, the old ages suggested by fission tracks were rejected."  Therefore, the fission tracks are proof of "accelerated nuclear decay" during the Flood.  Fission tracks in zircons from Early Flood rocks showed more accelerated decay than those from Late Flood rocks.
 

__Radiohalos__
Large zircons retain helium or alpha particles.  In small zircons the alpha particles leave the crystal to form a spherical halo of damage in the surrounding biotite mica crystal.  "Each halo is from multiple decays - 100's of millions of decays."  The radiohalo is about "10 microns in diameter - the same distance as fission tracks."  [I do not know if this was simply a comparison of sizes between radiohalos & fission tracks or if DeYoung was suggesting that they were formed by the same process.  My impression was the latter but I could have been mistaken.]
 
RATE collected samples of granite from the south coast of Australia, the Grand Canyon, Half Dome in Yosemite, Stone Mountain of Atlanta Georgia, England, & New South Wales.  Some of these granites were emplaced during the Flood.  RATE separated out biotite crystals and examined them under a microscope and found 1,000s of halos.  Halos show that a substantial amount of nuclear decay has occurred.
 
Some of these halos were identified as polonium radiohalos.  Polonium halos are of special interest to Creationists. There are three polonium isotopes that are part of the U-238 to Pb-206 decay chain: Po-218 has a half life of 3.1 minutes and decays by giving off an alpha particle to become Po-214 (half life of 0.0002 seconds), which gives off another alpha particle to become Po-210 with a half life of 138 days.  The question is how parentless polonium halos occurred since polonium decays in such a short time after it is forms from the decay of radon-222.
 
Although earlier Creationist interpretations (Robert Gentry) of polonium radiohalos suggested that God created granites instantaneously with polonium in place all ready to decay, the RATE team accepts that the polonium came naturally from the decay of uranium.  "Hydrothermal fluids from cooling granites move polonium atoms.  They are transported rapidly to where they decayed.  Sometimes there is only a 1 mm distance between uranium and polonium halos." 
 
Polonium halos can only form when the rock temperature is below 150 degrees C (300 degrees F).  If the temperature rises back above 150 degrees C, the polonium halos will anneal or disappear.  Therefore there is only a "narrow window of time for polonium to move" once the granites cool below the annealing temperature.  Polonium radiohalos are "significant evidence for accelerated nuclear decay."  Since heat will destroy halos & fission tracks, it is "difficult to imagine fission tracks and halos surviving for millions of years."  This is "evidence for short time frames."
 

__Discordant Dates__
There are four radioisotopic methods commonly used for dating rocks: potassium/argon, rubidium/strontium, uranium/lead, and samarium/neodymium.  DeYoung pointed out that these are expensive procedures. 
 
RATE collected samples from several areas: Grand Canyon Bass sill, Grand Canyon Cardenas Basalt Lavas, Grand Canyon Brahma amphibolites, Grand Canyon Elves Chasm granodiorite, plus others places that I didn't record.  RATE applied all four dating methods to these samples by "contracting professional dating laboratories."  The results for the different methods did not agree - they were discordant.
 
RATE suggests that accelerated nuclear decay causes discordance - the decay rates for each element changes differently.  They also suggest that alpha decay processes may have accelerated faster then beta decays and that heavier isotopes may have accelerated faster than lighter isotopes.  [This differential acceleration would cause the discordance of radioisotope dates in the same rock.]
 

__Accelerated Nuclear Decay__
RATE is proposing that there was a "temporary acceleration of nuclear decay - most occurring during Noah's Flood."
 
DeYoung points out that there are some challenges to left for the RATE research. The first challenge is to determine "how was nuclear decay speeded up?"  After all, we can't do it today.  Neither variations in pressure, temperature, electrical, or magnetic fields has been shown to significantly affect nuclear decay.  It probably involved some sort of change in the "nuclear binding force."  This "must involve Divine intervention."
 
Another challenge to the idea of accelerated nuclear decay is heat energy.  The amount of heat energy generated by the nuclear decay over that short of a time "would have vaporized the Earth."  But the Earth was not vaporized so there must be some way to account for the heat.  Again, "maybe Divine intervention?"  We should also note some of Dr. Humphreys has also proposed evidence for expanding space itself, which would remove a lot of heat.
 
Then DeYoung concluded ... "The Genesis Flood was surely a time when the Earth was shaken to its foundation."  And with that, 40 minutes after he had started, DeYoung was finished.  His talk had been the shortest of the technical presentations and had covered the most territory.

------
Still yet to come:
 
Dr. Gary Parker - The Authority of God's Word
Q & A with RATE Scientists
------
 
Steve
(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-
  http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1997/ofr-97-0492/
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