By Doug Macdougall

ISBN-10: 0520249755

ISBN-13: 9780520249752

"Radioactivity is sort of a clock that by no means wishes adjusting," writes Doug Macdougall. "It will be difficult to layout a extra trustworthy timekeeper." In Nature's Clocks, Macdougall tells how scientists who have been looking to comprehend the prior arrived on the creative thoughts they now use to figure out the age of gadgets and organisms. through interpreting radiocarbon (C-14) dating—the most sensible recognized of those methods—and a number of different strategies that geologists use to decode the far away earlier, Macdougall unwraps the final century's advances, explaining how they display the age of our fossil ancestors reminiscent of "Lucy," the timing of the dinosaurs' extinction, and the perfect a while of tiny mineral grains that date from the start of the earth's background. In vigorous and available prose, he describes how the technological know-how of geochronology has constructed and flourished. touching on those advances throughout the tales of the scientists themselves—James Hutton, William Smith, Arthur Holmes, Ernest Rutherford, Willard Libby, and Clair Patterson—Macdougall exhibits how they used ingenuity and idea to build one in all glossy science's most important accomplishments: a timescale for the earth's evolution and human prehistory.

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Additional info for Nature's Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything

Sample text

Becquerel was a talented scientist, but he was also, as the saying goes, in the right place at the right time. Within months of Roentgen’s discovery, Becquerel found that uranium-containing samples affected photographic plates, just as X-rays did. His experimental procedure was simple: he would seal a photographic plate in light-tight black paper and put it on a windowsill. On top of the sealed plate he would place the fluorescent mineral that he wished to investigate. Sunlight would induce fluorescence in the sample, and, he reasoned, if invisible penetrating radiation like Roentgen’s X-rays accompanied the fluorescence, it would be detected by the photographic plate.

The Acasta Gneiss 16. William Smith’s Fossils 17. An Ediacaran Fossil 18. Preparing Samples in a Clean Lab 19. The Magnetic Reversal Time Scale 20. An Evolution Time Line 21. A Time Line for Human Evolution 22. A Ghost Forest in Washington State 23. Occurrence Intervals of Large Pacific Northwest Earthquakes 24. Modern Human Migration into Europe 25. Radiocarbon Dating of the Santorini Volcanic Eruption 26. A Mass Spectrometer for Radiometric Dating 27. Bomb-Produced Radiocarbon in the Atmosphere TABLES 1.

And, indeed, his science was faultless—as far as it went. But neither Kelvin nor anyone else knew then that there are two other natural phenomena that should have been taken into account; their omission made Kelvin’s age of the Earth grossly inaccurate. The more important of these phenomena is convection in the Earth’s interior, which actively moves hot material toward the surface and cool material to deeper levels. This produces quite a different temperature gradient near the surface than would occur in the rigid Earth that Kelvin assumed for his cooling calculation.

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Nature's Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything by Doug Macdougall


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