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A helium balloon, for example, will deflate over time, because the helium atoms diffuse through the balloon and into the surrounding air.

Their age was measured to be 6.0 /- 0.3 billion years old. Those who are committed to an ancient age for the earth currently believe that it is 4.6 billion years old.

Obviously, then, the error in that measurement is 1.4 billion years, not 0.3 billion years!

The isochron is supposed to take care of such issues.

Essentially, rather than looking at the amounts of Rb-87 and Sr-87, we look at their compared to Sr-86.

Sr-86 diffuses more quickly than Sr-87, and that has never been taken into account when isochrons are analyzed. Perhaps, but it’s rather tricky, because the rate of diffusion depends on the specific chemical and physical environment of each individual rock.

If the effects of diffusion can be taken into account, it will require an elaborate model that will most certainly require elaborate assumptions. Hayes suggests a couple of other approaches that might work, but its not clear how well. If you believe the earth is very old, then most likely, all of the radioactive dates based on isochrons are probably overestimates. I have no idea, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. Hayes’s model indicates it could add as much as 29 billion years to ages determined with rubidium and strontium, although his model is rather simplistic.It refers to one specific source of error – the uncertainty in the measurement of the amounts of various atoms used in the analysis.Most likely, that is the least important source of error.Was Rb-87 or Sr-87 added to the rock by some unknown process?Was one of them removed from the rock by some unknown process?However, it’s important to note that some radioactive dates (like those that come from carbon-14) don’t use the isochron method, so they aren’t affected by this particular flaw.

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