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Young-Earth creationists -- that is, creationists who believe that Earth is no more than 10,000 years old -- are fond of attacking radiometric dating methods as being full of inaccuracies and riddled with sources of error.

When I first became interested in the creation-evolution debate, in late 1994, I looked around for sources that clearly and simply explained what radiometric dating is and why young-Earth creationists are driven to discredit it.

The half-life of a radioactive nuclide is defined as the time it takes half of a sample of the element to decay.

A mathematical formula can be used to calculate the half-life from the number of breakdowns per second in a sample of the nuclide.

Different nuclides of the same element can have substantially different half-lives.) billion years old.

So, if we know how much of the nuclide was originally present, and how much there is now, we can easily calculate how long it would take for the missing amount to decay, and therefore how long its been since that particular sample was formed. We must know the original quantity of the parent nuclide in order to date our sample In order to do so, we need a nuclide thats part of a mineral compound. Because theres a basic law of chemistry that says "Chemical processes like those that form minerals cannot distinguish between different nuclides of the same element." They simply cant do it.

Simply stated, radiometric dating is a way of determining the age of a sample of material using the decay rates of radio-active nuclides to provide a 'clock.' It relies on three basic rules, plus a couple of critical assumptions.Since all atoms of the same element have the same number of protons, different nuclides of an element differ in the number of neutrons they contain.For example, hydrogen-1 and hydrogen-2 are both nuclides of the element hydrogen, but hydrogen-1's nucleus contains only a proton, while hydrogen-2's nucleus contains a proton and a neutron.The decay rate and therefore the half-life are fixed characteristics of a nuclide. Thats the first axiom of radiometric dating techniques: the half-life of a given nuclide is a constant.(Note that this doesnt mean the half-life of an element is a constant.

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