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One crucial area the RATE project did not touch on was the issue of how reliable are the determinations of the radioisotope decay rates, which are so crucial for calibrating these dating “clocks.” However, in a recent series of papers, Snelling (2014a, b, 2015a, b, 2016, 2017) reviewed how the half-lives of the parent radioisotopes used in long-age geological dating have been determined and collated all the determinations of them reported in the literature to discuss the accuracy of their currently accepted values.
He documented the methodology behind and history of determining the decay constants and half-lives of the parent radioisotopes U which are used as the basis for the Rb-Sr, Lu-Hf, Re-Os, Sm-Nd, K-Ar, Ar-Ar, U-Pb, and Pb-Pb long-age dating methods respectively.
However, problems remain in the interpretation of the measured Pb isotopic ratios to transform them into ages.
Among them is the presence of non-radiogenic Pb of unknown composition, often referred to as common or initial Pb.
Zircon (Zr Si O) in particular has been the focus of thousands of geochronological studies, because of its ubiquity in felsic igneous rocks and its claimed extreme resistance to isotopic resetting (Begemann et al. However, accurate radioisotopic age determinations require that the decay constants or half-lives of the respective parent radionuclides be accurately known and constant in time.
Zircon does incorporate initial Pb when it crystallizes. It cannot be proven that the Pb in apparently cogenetic U- or Th-free minerals is only initial Pb, and that it is identical to the initial Pb in the mineral being dated.Nor can the measured Pb isotope ratios be used to somehow decide what proportions of them are the initial Pb without recourse to unprovable assumptions about the mineral or rock’s history or their interpreted U-Th-Pb ages within an assumed deep time history.Nevertheless, the ultimate foundation of this U-Pb dating methodology is the assumption that the earth formed from the solar nebula.U-Pb radioisotope dating is now the absolute dating method of first choice among geochronologists, especially using the mineral zircon.A variety of analytical instruments have also now been developed using different micro-sampling techniques coupled with mass spectrometers, thus enabling wide usage of U-Pb radioisotope dating.
All the unprovable assumptions ultimately depend on an assumed deep time history.