Radioactive Dating: Accurate or Not?

Today, in my animal science class, I heard from a teacher something that I didn’t think I would hear from anyone. Quote almost verbatim: “Radioactive dating is not accurate, they want you to think it is.” There are two reasons this quote annoys me. Firstly, it speaks of great arrogance, as if she knows more than the nuclear physicists about its accuracy, and as if they were stupid enough not to take account of the uncertainties.

Whether she is talking about the uncertainties, I doubt it. I hardly see that ordinary citizens are concerned with uncertainty in measurements. Besides, the uncertainties are within the limits that is deemed acceptable. Because of that, I believe she means that the dating either gives a wide range of results for rocks with the same age. Which is not true. As you can see in the chart, the meteorite rocks give consistent results in the approximation of the age of the solar system. Also, she misses the fact that radioactive decay is not dependent on environmental factors, only an element’s half life, which should be consistent because the decay of half of the atoms is totally probabilistic, and anyone who knows statistics can tell you that the more the more you flip the coin, the less the little deviations like 5 heads extras in a sample of say 20 or 50 count. As you can see, the one with 50 flips is more towards with 50/50. Anyways, the atoms had thousands to millions of years to decay, so its age will approximate to the half life. Besides, I trust the nuclear physicists more when speaking of radioactive decay than an animal science teacher, just as I trust her that she knows about animal science since she has studied it.


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