Magma Opus Tells a Tale on Radiometric Dating

Magma Opus Tells a Tale on Radiometric Dating


The following item reveals yet another problem with radiometric dating. The gist of the finding is that under the earth, the magma chambers do not consist of molten magma alone, but solid crystals are also found there. These crystals are commonly used in radiometric dating under the assumption that they formed when the magma erupted. Since the crystals already exist before the magma erupts, they can be much older than the eruption, and so their radiometric ages tell us nothing about when the magma erupted! Even if the crystals melt, their parent to daughter ratios will still persist in the magma obtained from them, and if this recrystallizes, it can inherit an erroneous date.

If the earth is young, radiometric dating is in error. We will show that radiometric dating is in error even if one assumes the earth is old. Suppose the earth cooled during billions of years. One would expect the outermost layers of rock to cool first, and thus they would give the oldest radiometric dates. Layers of rock farther down would crystallize later, and thus would have younger ages. Now, the magma chambers would form with magma near the top receiving the older crystals from the upper layers of rock and magma lower down receiving crystals from the rock lower down, with younger dates. The magma near the top would erupt first, giving very old (billions of years) dates, and the magma erupting later would give younger dates, even if the eruptions occurred within a very short period. This mechanism would even account for different techniques giving roughly similar ages, since their ages would be inherited from the crustal rocks of the earth. Thus old and even correlated radiometric ages do not exclude the possibility that the great igneous deposits on earth were laid down in a violent planetary cataclysm of a few thousand years ago.

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Contact: Gary Dorsey,, 410-516-7160, Johns Hopkins University.

Magma Opus: Geologist Reveals Earth's Plumbing

Momentous Theory In Earth Science Topples

The chance find of large crystals in the rocks of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica has led to a startling discovery by a geologist from The Johns Hopkins University.

One of the fundamental principles of geology is about to topple.

Bruce Marsh, professor of earth and planetary sciences, has demonstrated that the long-held notion of giant subterranean chambers containing pure, crystal-free magma does not accurately portray the true underground systems that carry and process the primordial ooze shaping the Earth's crust.

Instead, Marsh is methodically reporting a stream of evidence showing that the planet's internal plumbing is comprised of a plexus of smaller vertical columns of interconnected sheet-like chambers that transport a magmatic mush replete with crystals previously formed and recycled.

"I think people are a little overwhelmed," said Marsh, who appeared recently on the pages of "National Geographic" magazine encamped with his students on the frigid, desolate sands of Antarctica. "Scientists have walked all over this area for 20 or 30 years, and now here comes this guy who flies in, digs around a little and starts saying, "Hey, do you guys know what we're looking at here? Do you know what this is? This is the Rosetta works!' But that is exactly where we are. We're on the crest. We're unifying the theory of magmatism."

The excitement radiating from his lab is only barely detectable in the series of brief scientific papers Marsh has written since 1993, when he first literally stumbled onto a scattered rubble pile in the Dry Valleys and experienced a sudden awareness that one of the primary ideas of his discipline was severely flawed.

The significance of his findings has the attention of the National Science Foundation, which now funds an assortment of carefully chosen field studies for Marsh in Canada, Iceland, and on the ocean ridges of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Supporting evidence continues to allow the geologist to chip away at sacrosanct ideas about Earth's underground terrain.

His work poses a critical challenge to a theory embedded in geological lore for the past one hundred years, which assumes that any body of magma begins its slow evolution to igneous rock singularly devoid of crystals, then begins growing crystals that eventually produce recognizable, ntricate layering in the body. For more than 25 years, Marsh has been working to understand the deep underground systems that move magma into the Earth's crust. However, the effort to "get into the boiler rooms," as he says, has been particularly difficult because so little of it is actually visible.

"You find pieces of systems visible all over," Marsh said. "But most places only show you chunks of the system, like finding bits of a furnace strewn along the side of a road. You never see how, say, you hook the blower up to it or the fuel pipes and the electric lines and everything else. How does it all fit together? What's it look like when the whole system is connected? That's been one of the big problems."

In 1993, Marsh found his complete "furnace" exquisitely preserved, frozen in time, on a trip to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Lacking vegetation and insects, with very little weathering to strip away the evidence, the cold desert was the one place on Earth where large deposits of magma had been injected in long, layered seams called "sills," which ran for hundreds of miles and were visible to the naked eye.

It was an astonishing discovery.

He has been careful not to say too much about the work that is quickly overturning one of the fundamental ideas of the discipline. Altering the course of science must be done carefully and, at least initially, without a great deal of fanfare. The new foundation, he assures, is being laid out methodically and precisely.

"I've been cautious not to make this sound too dramatic. I'm not saying, "C'mon, guys, you're accepting a theory that's not accurate. You know what that means? It means you can take your old bag of beliefs and toss them out the window.' No, I just hope some of my colleagues will just be sitting at home one night with a glass of sherry, thinking, 'good god ...'"

With one of his next ventures back to Antarctica, Marsh said he hopes to take a team of scientists with him so they can see the evidence for themselves.


THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, OFFICE OF NEWS AND INFORMATION, 3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100, Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843, Phone: 410-516-7160 / Fax 410-516-5251

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