Dating through the ages

14-Dec-2019 08:32

Even more constraining were Kelvin's estimates of the age of the Sun, which were based on estimates of its thermal output and a theory that the Sun obtains its energy from gravitational collapse; Kelvin estimated that the Sun is about 20 million years old.

Geologists such as Charles Lyell had trouble accepting such a short age for Earth.

In the mid-18th century, the naturalist Mikhail Lomonosov suggested that Earth had been created separately from, and several hundred thousand years before, the rest of the universe. In 1779 the Comte du Buffon tried to obtain a value for the age of Earth using an experiment: He created a small globe that resembled Earth in composition and then measured its rate of cooling.

This led him to estimate that Earth was about 75,000 years old.

Because the time this accretion process took is not yet known, and predictions from different accretion models range from a few million up to about 100 million years, the difference between the age of Earth and of the oldest rocks is difficult to determine.

It is also difficult to determine the exact age of the oldest rocks on Earth, exposed at the surface, as they are aggregates of minerals of possibly different ages.

This was a challenge to the traditional view, which saw the history of Earth as static, He assumed that Earth had formed as a completely molten object, and determined the amount of time it would take for the near-surface temperature gradient to decrease to its present value.

His calculations did not account for heat produced via radioactive decay (a then unknown process) or, more significantly, convection inside the Earth, which allows the temperature in the upper mantle to remain high much longer, maintaining a high thermal gradient in the crust much longer.

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In 1830, geologist Charles Lyell, developing ideas found in James Hutton's works, popularized the concept that the features of Earth were in perpetual change, eroding and reforming continuously, and the rate of this change was roughly constant.

material and is consistent with the radiometric ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples.