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Is radiometric dating a theory test?


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#21 CTD

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 01:31 PM

I find it ironic in the extreme that "half life" is a statistical calculation.

#22 Adam Nagy

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 08:04 PM

I find it ironic in the extreme that "half life" is a statistical calculation.

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Isn't the whole half-life business a fairly reliable concept?

#23 CTD

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:59 PM

Isn't the whole half-life business a fairly reliable concept?

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How could anyone tell? What's measured is a result. The cause is unknown.

Because it's unknown, it's categorized as random. Tossing coins is random. But if all you see is the results of a series of coin tosses, how do you calculate the actual probability? The "halflife" is a claim in excess of what can be known, and contrary to that which actually is known. It is the equivalent of determining odds from results alone, then - and this is most important - claiming that only the most probable result is possible.

If you toss 100 coins, by their doctrine, you must always get exactly 50 heads and 50 tails. The actual chance of obtaining exactly 50-50 is pretty small. And the chance of 100 heads or 100 tails does exist. Or anything in between. But the perfect 50-50 split is always assumed dogmatically to be the only possible outcome.

They first claimed that based upon observation they could calculate an amount of time during which an atom of a given isotope would have a 50% chance of decaying. From this they calculate the average time it should take half the atoms in a group to decay. Then they insist this average will always be what is obtained.

Until someone can say what makes a given atom decay at a given time, there are limits to what can be confidently and honestly claimed. Evolutionism is again leveraging the unknown to claim as fact that which they desire to be so. To some extent they might get away with it; but the laws of probability mitigate strongly against always obtaining the average result.

And even if it were so, what would we get if we toss a coin 5 times?

The irony becomes evident when you compare this type of reasoning to the type employed when odds of obtaining such-and-such molecule or group of mutations are brushed aside on with "but it's still possible". According to what they say is actually known about decay, it's possible for some none or all of any isotope to decay in any given timespan. The blindly faithful are not strangers to double standards. I just wonder how keenly aware they are of this one.

#24 assist24

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 04:58 PM

Isn't the whole half-life business a fairly reliable concept?

Yep. The concept of radioactive half life is one of the most well understood and well supported in all of physics. Every major area of nuclear science and engineering, from H-bombs to the atomic reactors that drive submarines to the radiation source for medical X-ray machines relies 100% on understood predictable nuclear decay rates.

There is nothing unusual or wrong about using statistical sampling to determine probabilities. It’s done all the time in the real world. When the Gallup folks predict election outcomes based on polls, they can get quite accurate results by just polling a small percentage of the entire population. They don’t have to call every voting household in the country to get their data. Las Vegas and the whole gaming industry work on statistical probabilities. A roulette wheel has approx. +5% house odds due to the extra 0 and 00. Vegas can’t predict who will win and who will lose on any given spin, but over time and millions of spins it a virtual certainty the house will be that 5% ahead.

The same holds true for radioactive decay. No one can predict exactly which individual atom will decay when. However, if you start with billions or trillions of atoms of an element with a measured decay rate of 5000 years, it is a virtual certainty that after 5000 years that 50% of them will have decayed. Not exactly 50.000000000% mind you, but 50% to within a significant number of standard deviations.

Occasionally you get a goober who doesn’t understand physics or statistics say something like

If you toss 100 coins, by their doctrine, you must always get exactly 50 heads and 50 tails. The actual chance of obtaining exactly 50-50 is pretty small. And the chance of 100 heads or 100 tails does exist. Or anything in between. But the perfect 50-50 split is always assumed dogmatically to be the only possible outcome.

They first claimed that based upon observation they could calculate an amount of time during which an atom of a given isotope would have a 50% chance of decaying. From this they calculate the average time it should take half the atoms in a group to decay. Then they insist this average will always be what is obtained.


…and all you can do is shake your head and laugh. :rolleyes:

See, there’s absolutely nothing magic or different between the physics of those bombs, reactors, and X-ray machine, and the physics of radiometric dating. The nuclear decay chains follow the exact same laws of physics, the radioactive elements follow the exact same known decay chains with the exact same known decay rates. The only reasons for accepting the physics in the first three cases but not the last has nothing to do with any scientific technical reasons, and everything to do with trying to prop up pre-conceived beliefs.

#25 ikester7579

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 08:20 PM

Isn't the whole half-life business a fairly reliable concept?

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Only when it supports certain views. Evolutionists made a scurry to disprove the plutonium halos claim by Robert Gentry. Half life's don't apply to polonium if it supports young earth. Only if it supports old earth. :rolleyes:

#26 oliver

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 11:15 PM

Evolutionists made a scurry to disprove the plutonium halos claim by Robert Gentry. Half life's don't apply to plutonium if it supports young earth. Only if it supports old earth. :)

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Isn't that polonium? (Much shorter half-life.)

#27 CTD

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 12:50 AM

The 'half-life' is defined as the time it takes for half of a given isotope to decay.

In reality, what they've calculated is the average amount of time it is expected to take.

Equating a statistical average of probabilities with certain fact is just wrong. If you doubt this, toss a coin 20 times. More often than not, you will not get 10 heads and 10 tails. The actual laws of probability and statistical analysis are very much against the claim.

The 'half-life' is also an arbitrary abstraction. One could calculate a "quarter-life" or "tenth-life" or "hundred thousanth-life". I'm not aware of any law of nature designating the half as magically superior to other fractions.

With the advent of computers (even sophisticated pocket calculators) the abstract shortcut of the 'half-life' is no longer needed to directly calculate the odds of a given number of atoms decaying in a given amount of time. It is retained as a means of smuggling in the assumption that averages are certainties.

Honest science doesn't need to conceal its assumptions, and honest scientists don't desire to do so.

#28 CTD

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 01:22 AM

Occasionally you get a goober who doesn’t understand physics or statistics say something like

If you toss 100 coins, by their doctrine, you must always get exactly 50 heads and 50 tails. The actual chance of obtaining exactly 50-50 is pretty small. And the chance of 100 heads or 100 tails does exist. Or anything in between. But the perfect 50-50 split is always assumed dogmatically to be the only possible outcome.

They first claimed that based upon observation they could calculate an amount of time during which an atom of a given isotope would have a 50% chance of decaying. From this they calculate the average time it should take half the atoms in a group to decay. Then they insist this average will always be what is obtained.

…and all you can do is shake your head and laugh. :)

See, there’s absolutely nothing magic or different between the physics of those bombs, reactors, and X-ray machine, and the physics of radiometric dating. The nuclear decay chains follow the exact same laws of physics, the radioactive elements follow the exact same known decay chains with the exact same known decay rates. The only reasons for accepting the physics in the first three cases but not the last has nothing to do with any scientific technical reasons, and everything to do with trying to prop up pre-conceived beliefs.

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Occasionally we see evobabblers who prefer to call people stuff like "goober" rather than address actual arguments.

There's no magic line between physics and chemistry. What I said doesn't rely upon magic differences. I do not cherry-pick my physics, or any of my science. Rather than substantiate your assertions, you make the typical attempt to parasitically attach bogus conclusions to things which are observed to work. Does the X-Ray machine depend on the same set of assumptions as evodates? No. Do bombs or nuclear reactors? No. Does your fifth-rate propaganda have any merit if the assumption sets differ? No.

#29 jason78

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 03:22 AM

Occasionally we see evobabblers who prefer to call people stuff like "goober" rather than address actual arguments.

There's no magic line between physics and chemistry. What I said doesn't rely upon magic differences. I do not cherry-pick my physics, or any of my science. Rather than substantiate your assertions, you make the typical attempt to parasitically attach bogus conclusions to things which are observed to work. Does the X-Ray machine depend on the same set of assumptions as evodates? No. Do bombs or nuclear reactors? No. Does your fifth-rate propaganda have any merit if the assumption sets differ? No.

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All those things you mentioned rely on quantum mechanics to work. The same quantum mechanics that you call philosophy and claim doesn't work or doesn't exist.

#30 CTD

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 03:57 AM

All those things you mentioned rely on quantum mechanics to work.  The same quantum mechanics that you call philosophy and claim doesn't work or doesn't exist.

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Care to demonstrate this alleged reliance?

#31 jason78

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 06:50 AM

Care to demonstrate this alleged reliance?

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Does it matter? You've already decided that quantum mechanics is not a good description of how the world works. I don't think there's anything I can say that will convince you that quantum tunnelling is a testable mechanism.

#32 CTD

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 03:26 AM

Does it matter?  You've already decided that quantum mechanics is not a good description of how the world works.  I don't think there's anything I can say that will convince you that quantum tunnelling is a testable mechanism.

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When people assert that reality doesn't exist until I perceive it, and other similar junk, I should not be the only one rejecting their conclusions. But if I am, so be it.

For the record, matter, information, light and other forms of energy, gravity, fields, and a few other things do exist. They will continue to exist whether I or the appointed experts choose to acknowledge them or not. They will continue to exist whether I accept illogical, inconsistent explanations for their existence or not. They existed even before any man offered any explanation for them at all. Isn't that amazing!

#33 Adam Nagy

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 05:46 AM

Does it matter?  You've already decided that quantum mechanics is not a good description of how the world works.  I don't think there's anything I can say that will convince you that quantum tunnelling is a testable mechanism.

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I've been looking into this quantum mechanics business more and more. First, the theory is not rock solid but some results and conditions have some repeatable and useful attributes.

I think the problem is when people think that Quantum Mechanics defines and alters the metaphysical concepts of information and logic.

#34 CTD

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 03:05 PM

Returning to the premise that the most probable result is the only possible result, we find just as much hypocrisy as we have come to expect. It is not applied in the real world. Oh, opportunities exist; they abound in gambling houses.

For example, 7 is statistically the most likely outcome when two dice are thrown. Anyone who actually believes the outcome which is statistically most likely should believe they have quite the golden opportunity: simply bet on 7 to be the outcome of every throw at the craps table. The Nobel Prize is nothing compared to the winnings which await the one who successfully applies this principle.

Then again, lots of people go broke at craps tables. It could be this false principle has been accepted by a few too many individuals. In the real world, 7 is not the exclusive outcome.

And there's actually a better foundation for tossing coins and rolling dice than there is for gambling on the results of decaying atoms. In the case of coins and dice, the mechanisms are known and subject to direct analysis. In the case of atoms, the mechanism is unknown, and odds are derived exclusively from observed results. If all you saw was the results of 100 coin tosses, you wouldn't be likely to obtain the correct probability. You'd probably get a ratio of 46 to 54 (or something in that neighborhood), and with nothing else to go on, that's what you'd set in stone (provided you're the type to set things in stone which aren't firmly established).

Shoot, I still understated the problem. There's still the problem of obtaining accurate counts. It's practically impossible (in the strictest sense: a practical impossibility) to obtain a 100% pure sample of any radioactive isotope. While you're collecting it, how do you get the atoms to stop decaying? They won't stop when you go to take measurements either. Estimates must be made in order to obtain even the initial dataset, which is required before the series of extrapolations can begin.

Finally, there is the problem of global vs. local conformity. That all of a given isotope globally decays at a given rate isn't even the real issue. You have a tiny fraction in your sample; I have a tiny fraction in mine. If yours slows down while mine speeds up, the global rate can still be constant - one can compensate for the other.

Not only is perpetual global uniformity of decay assumed, local compliance by every single speck of every radioactive isotope on earth is also taken entirely for granted.

#35 CTD

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:36 AM

How could anyone tell? What's measured is a result. The cause is unknown.

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I think this bears repeating. There's not really much way to tell.

What's happening is something unknown is causing atoms to decay. Could be tiny coins are tossed in there, or tiny dice rolled. From the outside we don't know how often the coin is tossed or the die rolled. All that can be seen is the end result: every so often an atom decays.

So there's simply no way to be sure.

Now we're told all the time that newer, more accurate "measurements" are being made of halflives. This shouldn't be just swallowed down uncritically. There were old measurements. There are new measurements. Now if they differ, must it be because the new ones are better? Could it just possibly be that the old ones were just as good? Could it be that the reason the measurements differ is because the decay wasn't quite identical? This is random stuff, we're told (when they don't think we're paying attention). But the ASSUMPTION that the rate is absolutely constant and cannot change is already built into the reasoning process. If the rate did change, such reasoning would never figure it out.

* Googling " 'new measurement' halflife" got me 4,890 hits, in case anyone's uninformed (or intends to assume others are) and wants to challenge that point.

Here's a nice example:

http://nd2007.edpsci.../ndata07440.pdf

... For these reasons, the half-life of 92Sr has been measured to solve a recently observed inconsistency with the quoted value in the nuclear data libraries: T1/2 = 2.71 ± 0.01 h. In this work, a new value is proposed: T1/2 = 2.594 ± 0.005 h. A better accuracy is achieved compared to previous evaluations. It also shows a good agreement with the most recent studies: T1/2 = 2.627 ± 0.009 h.

No change of course - just "a more accurate value". :rolleyes:

#36 Richard Townsend

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 03:50 PM

Returning to the premise that the most probable result is the only possible result, we find just as much hypocrisy as we have come to expect. It is not applied in the real world. Oh, opportunities exist; they abound in gambling houses.

For example, 7 is statistically the most likely outcome when two dice are thrown. Anyone who actually believes the outcome which is statistically most likely should believe they have quite the golden opportunity: simply bet on 7 to be the outcome of every throw at the craps table. The Nobel Prize is nothing compared to the winnings which await the one who successfully applies this principle.

Then again, lots of people go broke at craps tables. It could be this false principle has been accepted by a few too many individuals. In the real world, 7 is not the exclusive outcome.

And there's actually a better foundation for tossing coins and rolling dice than there is for gambling on the results of decaying atoms. In the case of coins and dice, the mechanisms are known and subject to direct analysis. In the case of atoms, the mechanism is unknown, and odds are derived exclusively from observed results. If all you saw was the results of 100 coin tosses, you wouldn't be likely to obtain the correct probability. You'd probably get a ratio of 46 to 54 (or something in that neighborhood), and with nothing else to go on, that's what you'd set in stone (provided you're the type to set things in stone which aren't firmly established).

Shoot, I still understated the problem. There's still the problem of obtaining accurate counts. It's practically impossible (in the strictest sense: a practical impossibility) to obtain a 100% pure sample of any radioactive isotope. While you're collecting it, how do you get the atoms to stop decaying? They won't stop when you go to take measurements either. Estimates must be made in order to obtain even the initial dataset, which is required before the series of extrapolations can begin.

Finally, there is the problem of global vs. local conformity. That all of a given isotope globally decays at a given rate isn't even the real issue. You have a tiny fraction in your sample; I have a tiny fraction in mine. If yours slows down while mine speeds up, the global rate can still be constant - one can compensate for the other.

Not only is perpetual global uniformity of decay assumed, local compliance by every single speck of every radioactive isotope on earth is also taken entirely for granted.

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To determine the half life, you don't need a 100% pure sample, and you don't need to worry about the initial conditions - all you need to do is measure the rate at which decays are occurring at a number of points in time and from that the half life can be derived. You do need to avoid contamination from other sources of radioactive decay to get clean results.

You're quite right that perpetual global and local uniformity of decay is assumed. There is some evidence that this is the case over long time periods, eg the Oklo reactor, but I don't know that it is definitive.

When there are a huge number of atoms decaying the half life is quite predictable. It's comparable to testing billions of coin tosses - the ratio of heads to tails would be very close to 1.

The mechanism of radioactive decay is very well understood. There is no 'cause' of an individual atom decaying, according to quantum mechanics - it's a random process. This isn't because we don't know the cause - it's because according to quantum mechanics it really is random.

Rich

#37 CTD

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:11 PM

To determine the half life, you don't need a 100% pure sample, and you don't need to worry about the initial conditions - all you need to do is measure the rate at which decays are occurring at a number of points in time and from that the half life can be derived. You do need to avoid contamination from other sources of radioactive decay to get clean results.

That would depend on how accurate and direct you prefer your measurements to be. One can make estimates without a pure sample, sure.

Simply measuring decay particles will tell you how many decay event took place, but it won't tell you how many could potentially have taken place.

You're quite right that perpetual global and local uniformity of decay is assumed. There is some evidence that this is the case over long time periods, eg the Oklo reactor, but  I don't know that it is definitive.

The assumption is one I find unacceptable. When measurements differ from time to time, why should one be prohibited from noticing and acknowledging the difference? The dogma is expected to create both internal and external prohibition. This can serve no good purpose.

When there are a huge number of atoms decaying the half life is quite predictable. It's comparable to testing billions of coin tosses - the ratio of heads to tails would be very close to 1.

Usually. But there arises a consistency problem when people who assert odds of 1 in 10 to the 40th, 80th, etc. power have been beat again and again and again; yet maintain halflives are some sort of certainty.

For now, I shall estimate you outside their number.

The mechanism of radioactive decay is very well understood. There is no 'cause' of an individual atom decaying, according to quantum mechanics - it's a random process. This isn't because we don't know the cause - it's because according to quantum mechanics it really is random.

Rich

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This last part isn't so hot. Labeling/defining/designating something one doesn't understand as "random" does not make it understood. That's not a mechanism - it's a copout, and a cheesy excuse not to investigate.

And it isn't science. The hypothesis would have to be testable. How does one test the idea that decay is truly random, as opposed to a function of an unknown mechanism? Just because something is unknown does not mean we should accept it when someone just up & claims anything they please.

#38 Richard Townsend

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 10:29 AM

When measurements differ from time to time, why should one be prohibited from noticing and acknowledging the difference? The dogma is expected to create both internal and external prohibition. This can serve no good purpose.


If they did genuinely vary, it would be big news. There's no dogma that says it's impossible, but we'd need good evidence of it. A number of scientists have thought it possible that rates might change over time and have done experiments to look for it - so far there hasn't been good evidence. I agree that prohibiting this kind of discovery would be a very bad thing. I don't think that's likely to happen. Physicists are not inhibited by the need to support evolutionary theory.

Usually. But there arises a consistency problem when people who assert odds of 1 in 10 to the 40th, 80th, etc. power have been beat again and again and again; yet maintain halflives are some sort of certainty.

I understand your point. It is easy to get statistical estimates wrong. In practice, the half life has been a reliable figure.


This last part isn't so hot. Labeling/defining/designating something one doesn't understand as "random" does not make it understood. That's not a mechanism - it's a copout, and a cheesy excuse not to investigate.

And it isn't science. The hypothesis would have to be testable. How does one test the idea that decay is truly random, as opposed to a function of an unknown mechanism? Just because something is unknown does not mean we should accept it when someone just up & claims anything they please.

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I agree with your first statement. It's not enough to say something is random.

The results are 'random' - in the sense that they meet statistical test for randomness. This is true whatever the 'trigger' for decay is, if there is one.

Quantum mechanics can account for the processes of decay very well - that's what I mean by saying it's well understood.

But I agree that it's possible there is something 'underneath' quantum mechanics, or that another theory will replace it at some time that is more 'realistic'. Quite a few physicists are looking for this as they are not happy with the lack of 'realism' in quantum mechanics.

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#39 CTD

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 06:20 PM

If they did genuinely vary, it would be big news.

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In that case, the pdf to which I linked above contains very big news. Here it is again.

http://nd2007.edpsci.../ndata07440.pdf

If the new measurement fell within the stated margin of error of the old measurement, one could claim they were simply refining what was already known. They don't. The new measurements are in conflict with the others. If you read the link, they make it pretty clear.

By the standards employed by the authors, and generally by anyone who knows what term 'margin-of-error' means, values with non-overlapping margins-of-error (or 'error bars') are in conflict. You'll see what I mean if you check out the text on the third page, below table four.

A weighted average from the three values was determined
for each fuel pin. Nevertheless, as the discrepancies were
sometimes beyond their reported uncertainties, the associated
uncertainty is calculated from the standard deviation between
the three values, with a multiplication factor tp(ν) = 1.32 [15]
that arose from the low degree of freedom of the sample.


Due to the failure of the margins-or-error to overlap, their conclusion cannot be honestly interpreted as "merely a refinement". It is unquestionably in disagreement with the other values.

...For these reasons, the half-life of 92Sr has been measured to solve a recently observed inconsistency with the quoted value in the nuclear data libraries: T1/2 = 2.71 ± 0.01 h. In this work, a new value is proposed: T1/2 = 2.594 ± 0.005 h. A better accuracy is achieved compared to previous evaluations. It also shows a good agreement with the most recent studies: T1/2 = 2.627 ± 0.009 h.

Perhaps a different individual wrote the final sentence than wrote the earlier part. One hopes so, because the "good agreement" is actually a clear and unambiguous disagreement..

There's no dogma that says it's impossible, but we'd need good evidence of it.

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Your observations differ from my own. We need people who can see a difference when it's right in front of their nose, and aren't afraid to say so.


A number of scientists have thought it possible that rates might change over time and have done experiments to look for it - so far there hasn't been good evidence.
I agree that prohibiting this kind of discovery would be a very bad thing. I don't think that's likely to happen.

Our interpretation of the events of recent history differs. It already has happened. Drilling "fixed rates" of "half-lives" which were derived from statistical probabilities based upon indirect observations of results of unknown mechanisms into people's heads again and again is something I interpret as an attempt to do just that.

Physicists are not inhibited by the need to support evolutionary theory.

Although I would welcome some, I have seen no evidence that physicists are immune to evolutionism.

Another discussion of 90Sr research says

A recent paper has reviewed methods for the evaluation of discrepant sets of data and demonstrated the results of applying these methods to the published half-life data of 90Sr and 137Cs [MacMahon, T.D., Pearce, A., Harris, P., 2004. Convergence of techniques for the evaluation of discrepant data. Appl. Radiat. Isot. 60, 275-281]. The half-life data for 3H has been subject to a comprehensive review and critical evaluation by Lucas and Unterweger [2000. Comprehensive review and critical evaluation of the half-life of tritium. J. Res. Natl. Inst. Stand. Technol. 105, 541-549].

(bold is mine, above and below)

It goes on to say

...resulting in a recommended half-life of 4497(4) days. MacMahon et al. [Convergence of techniques for the evaluation of discrepant data. Appl. Radiat. Isot. 60, 275-281] highlighted problems in the evaluation of the discrepant half-life data of 90Sr, in particular the worrying upward trend in the data, where the weighted mean of all the measurements increases, on average, by 35 days each time a new measurement result is added.

Is the term "worrying" justified? I believe it is. Fortunately, in the case of 90Sr, nuclear reactor safety issues are involved, so there is a conflict-of-interest vs. evolutionism. How many of these people would be willing to jeopardize the lives of health of strangers for the religion? In spite of intense conditioning, I think eyes are opening. Prejudice isn't always an effective barrier for holding back truth.

Now what don't we see here? We see reports of different values at different times. We see attempts to analyze the data sets differently. We do not see anyone much asking "what if all the measurements are correct?" The assumption that the rate is constant appears to be preventing this question. What if the assumption is false and the rate is actually changing from measurement to measurement? Who will us? The best interpretation of the evidence here is that the values change. In order to interpret it differently, they'd have to be misstating the margins-of-error.




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