North Carolina State University has recently conducted research revealing an “oversight in a radioisotope dating technique used to date everything from meteorites to geologic samples,” which means that “scientists have likely overestimated the ages of many samples.” This research was done in the university’s Nuclear Engineering Department by Associate Professor Robert Hayes and a report published in the journal Nuclear Technology.1

To claim a key flaw has been found in the radioisotope dating methodology, which underpins the millions-of-years edifice of all modern secular geology, is quite extraordinary. Such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence to back it up, and since this is a complicated subject, it requires some preliminary explanations so that the details of this claim and the evidence for it can be readily understood.

Atoms, Isotopes, and Radioisotopes

Every chemical element is made up of atoms unique to it. All atoms consist of a nucleus around which electrons (negatively-charged particles) orbit. Within the nucleus of nearly all atoms are protons and neutrons, positively-charged and neutral particles respectively.

All the atoms in each chemical element have the same number of protons in their nuclei. That number is called the atomic number of the element. Element 1 is hydrogen with one proton in its nucleus. Its chemical symbol is H. One of the heaviest elements is uranium with 92 protons in its nucleus and symbol U.

The combined number of protons and neutrons in an atom’s nucleus is called its atomic weight, because almost all the weight or mass of an atom is in its nucleus. However, the number of neutrons in the nucleus of each atom is not always the same. Often there are equal numbers of neutrons and protons, but sometimes there are more neutrons than protons.

Thus every element has atoms with the same atomic number, but its atoms can have several different atomic weights because of the different numbers of neutrons. Atoms of the same element that have different atomic weights are called isotopes of that element.

For example, carbon (symbol C) is element 6 because it has six protons in every one of its atoms. However, while most carbon atoms have 6 neutrons in their nuclei, there are a few atoms with seven and even fewer atoms with eight neutrons in their nuclei. We distinguish these isotopes of carbon from one another by their different atomic weights as carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14, or in “shorthand” as 12C, 13C and 14C (see figure 1).

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