Accelerated decay is in direct opposition to the main assumption of radiometric dating within the evolutionary scientific establishment which is that the radioactive decay rates are constant with time. If the decay rate has varied significantly over time then any date based on radioactive decay within the evolutionary context is worthless.
A scientific research group called RATE ( Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth ) was formed by the Institute for Creation Research and the Creation Research Society to study this issue from a creationist perspective. They have determined that the most likely times for accelerated decay were the first 2.5 days of the creation week, and during the flood and shortly thereafter.
Evidence for Accelerated Decay
If radioactive decay has been going on for millions and billions of years, there has been insufficient argon diffusion and insufficient lead diffusion, there is insufficient Helium in the air, and too much Helium in rocks.
Recent experiments commissioned by the RATE group indicate that "1.5 billion years" worth of nuclear decay have taken place, but in one or more short periods 4000 - 8000 years ago. This would shrink the alleged 4.5 billion year radioisotope age of the earth to only a few thousand years.
This was done by extracting hard, dense, microscopic crystals called zircons. Much of the uranium and thorium in the earth's continental crust is in zircons and it is often embedded in flakes of biotite; a black mica. Helium is made by the decay of uranium to lead; as a uranium atom decays, it emits eight alpha particles (helium nuclei) per atom. These helium nuclei quickly gather two electrons from the crystal and thus become complete helium atoms.
Los Alamos measurements of uranium, thorium, and lead showed "1.5 billion" years worth of nuclear decay at today's rates. After calculating how much helium had been deposited by decay, they then measured how much helium was still in the zircons. It turned out that up to 58% of the helium had not diffused out of the zircons; the percentages decreased with depth and temperature. At the time that the RATE group began its work, the diffusion rates had not been measured for the zircons and biotite. On the basis of the helium found in zircons, Dr. Russell Humphreys calculated the diffusion rates for both the Creation and the Uniformitarian models. He found that the diffusion rates for the two models differ by a factor of 100,000.
When the diffusion rates in zircons were measured, they matched the Creation model but were found to be totally incompatible with the Uniformitarian model. These results, along with the helium actually observed in zircons, show that diffusion has been occurring for 6000 ± 2000 years. These rates are about 250,000 times too high for the Uniformitarian model. This demonstrates that the observed decay of uranium cannot have taken 1.5 billion years.
In order for zircons to retain the observed amount of helium for 1.5 billion years, they would have had to have been at the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196ºC below zero) for all that time, which is, of course, both incompatible with life and with any known or conjectured history of the earth..
There is some evidence for a correlation between nuclear decay rates and the distance it is from the sun. Jere Jenkins et al at Purdue University have reexamined raw data from various experiments and seem to support this conclusion.
Theoretical Bases for Nuclear Decay
In the conventional theory on radioactive decay, alpha particles are trapped in the nucleus by a strong force potential barrier. In radioactive nuclei, alpha particles sometimes tunnel through the barrier. This process has only been treated statistically. It is claimed that quantum mechanics does not allow accelerated decay. This is not really true, because quantum mechanics treats the subatomic world statistically; it does not provide any cause and effect explanation of decay.
One simple case is that a variation in the strong force would change decay rates.
String theory hypothesizes the existence of spatial dimensions, which are confined to approximately 10-34 m, in excess of the three we directly observe. In this theory, decay rates are related to the size of these dimensions. A change in the size of these dimensions would change decay rates.
Nikola Tesla, who did a lot of experimental work with Electromagnetism, suggested that some type of ray may trigger radioactive decay. Others have taken up this idea and have proposed various ideas about what the rays could be. Some suggest neutrinos, since they are associated with nuclear reactions and are detected by their triggering a nuclear reaction. If neutrinos or some other agent trigger nuclear decay, an increase in the presence of this agent would accelerate nuclear decay. This model predicts that there should be a small annual variation in decay rates as the Earth’s distance from the sun varies, According to a recent article in New Scientist] this affect has been observed, in a variety of isotopes in several different experiments.
It has been demonstrated in both Alpha and Bata decay
It also known carbon-14 dating has wiggles that annoy researchers, and according to the article it is consistent with a 200 year cycle in solar activity. This would also be consitent with neutrino triggered decay.
The sad thing is that this annual variation in decay rates was first observed in 1986 and ignored as equipment error, on the bases that the scientists “knew” that decay rates were constant. As a result further research was prevented for 24 years until it was rediscovered. This makes it an excellent example of scientific research being stifled the preconceptions of scientists who ignored data contrary to accepted dogma.
An interesting mechanism is suggested by General Grand Unification model. In this model, probabilistic behavior such as tunneling is controlled by an intelligent agent; it makes no difference to the theory whether this is an actual being, an algorithm preprogrammed by God, or God's thoughts. In any case, God could have simply adjusted the controls governing quantum tunneling so as to speed up nuclear decay for a time.
Dealing With the Heat
The biggest objection to the possibility of accelerated nuclear decay is the fact that nuclear decay produces heat. If decay were accelerated too much, the heat would cause problems.
Interestingly God gave us the solution about 3,000 years ago, in Psalms 104:2.
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: Psalms 104:2 (KJV)
This is a reference to the expansion of space described by General Relativity. If accelerated decay had occurred at the same time as a rapid stretching of space, that would get rid of the excess heat. So accelerated nuclear decay could have occurred as long as it was accompanied by a rapid expansion of space.
The Bible definitely indicates that such an expansion occurred during the creation week.
6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. Genesis 1:6-7 (KJV)
An additional expansion could have occurred during the Flood.
9. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. 10. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. 11. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind. 12. And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. 13. Through the brightness before him were coals of fire kindled. 14. The Lord thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice. 15. And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them. 16. And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, At the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils. 2Samuel 22:9-16 (KJV)
Both Henry Morris (in The Henry Morris Study Bible) and Dr. Russell Humphreys (in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) indicate that David was comparing his own deliverance to the Flood in these verses. Dr. Russell Humphreys goes on to indicate that the reference to "fire out of his mouth devoured" to be an indication that accelerated nuclear decay occurred during the Flood, since the Hebrew word translated fire can mean any consuming heat. He also shows that the Hebrew word translated "bowed" can mean to stretch out. So this passage seems to indicate both accelerated nuclear decay and an expansion of space during the Flood.
Accelerated nuclear decay is not a theory of desperation as some critics claim, since there are both Biblical and scientific support for it. Furthermore, accelerated nuclear decay explains a lot more than reconciling detected amounts of nuclear decay with a young Earth; in fact, it provides a mechanism for triggering the Flood and more. One sign of a good theory is that it explains more than what it is intended to.
- The Sun Influences the Decay of Radioactive Elements Researchers here found that decay rates during the summer season were slightly faster than those present during winter. August 25, 2010.
- The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elements Researchers found that the radioactive decay of some elements sitting quietly in laboratories on Earth were influenced by activities inside the sun, 93 million miles away. Stanford Report, August 23, 2010
- Radioactive Decay Rates Not Stable Italian research shows evidence that a process called “cavitation” accelerated the nuclear decay of thorium. ICR Daily Science Updates, August 5, 2009.
- A cool solution to waste disposal A group of physicists in Germany claims to have discovered a way of speeding up radioactive decay that could render nuclear waste harmless on timescales of just a few tens of years. Physicsweb. July 31, 2006
- Do nuclear decay rates depend on our distance from the sun?
- Mullins, Justin. Solar ghosts may haunt Earth's radioactive atoms New Scientist Vol 2714, June 30, 2009.
- Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth book by Larry Vardiman, Andrew Snelling, Eugene Chaffin. 676 page hardcover ISBN: 0932766196. 2000
- Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Volume II book by By Larry Vardiman, Andrew Snelling, and Eugene Chaffin. 876 page hardback. ISBN 0932766811
- Thousands... Not Billions book by Don DeYoung. 250 page paperback. ISBN: 0890514410. 2005
- Thousands... Not Billions Video docu-drama by the Institute for Creation Research
- Nuclear Decay: Evidence for a Young World by Russell Humphreys. ICR Impact 352, October 2002
- A Mechanism for Accelerated Radioactive Decay by Eugene Chaffin CRSQ Vol 7 No1 (pp3 - 9) June 2000
- Billion-fold Acceleration of Radioactivity Demonstrated in Laboratory
- Radioactive decay rate depends on chemical environment by Tas Walker. TJ 14(1):4–5 April 2000
- Accelerated Decay: Theoretical Models by Eugene Chaffin
- New Rate Data Support a Young World by Russell Humphreys. ICR Impact 366, Dec 2003
- Have the decay rates been constant?
- Radioactive decay
- Radiometric dating
- Age dating
- Response to criticism of RATE’s helium diffusion dates
- Radiometric dating problems