Posted: Aug 24, 2011 11:31 am
by Calilasseia
Actually, if this individual is trying to use the "accelerated decay" nonsense erected by Russell Humphreys and the RATEtards, then the amount of heat dumped into the planet by speeding up U238 decay to the point where it would fit the mythical "universe is only 6,000 years old" fairy tale, would do more than just melt the planet - it would raise temperatures at the core to the point where helium fusion became possible. The planet would become a very short-lived dwarf nova. I'd like to see a wooden barge survive that.

Plus, strictly speaking, decay rates over the long term aren't 'constant', they obey an exponential decay law. Which I've expounded upon in complete detail in another thread. However, because the decay law in question is mathematically precise when dealing with large numbers of atoms (and even a rock sample containing 0.01% U238 contains trillions of atoms of Uranium, courtesy of that well known constant named after Avogadro), we're able to use radionuclide decay as an atomic clock over geological time, by appropriate application of that mathematically precise law.

As for electron capture, well, the problem facing mythology fetishists is quite simply this. In the case of an isotope such as Re187, it is possible to alter the rate of electron capture slightly by ionising the atoms. However, in order to exert a measurable effect upon electron capture decay rates in Re187, you have to strip away 74 of its 75 electrons, and create the Re74+ ion. Now, one of the basic rules of physics, with respect to ionisation, is that the amount of energy required to remove an additional electron increases with each new electron you wish to remove. Whilst it may only take a small amount of energy to remove the first electron from a neutral atom, the result is a positively charged ion, and removal of the second electron requires more energy to overcome the net positive charge of the ion that binds the remaining electrons more tightly. As you remove each successive electron, you increase the positive charge of the ion, and increase the amount of energy needed to overcome the increasingly strong electrostatic force binding the remaining electrons to the atom. Consequently, it takes a lot of energy to remove 74 electrons from a single Rhenium atom. The usual means of producing highly ionised atoms in nature is the mechanism seen in stars - heat them up to a high temperature. To produce Re74+ ions, however, that temperature has to be very high indeed - high enough for the substance to be a plasma. If you run the numbers, you end up needing a temperature of around 65,000 Kelvins. This isn't going to occur on Earth unless some truly remarkable processes are unleashed. Even if some magic process occurs that produces these highly ionised atoms without turning the entire planet into a plasma, the resulting contraction of half-life is way smaller than the several orders of magnitude needed to be consistent with creationist fantasies.

And, of course, the above mechanism is only valid for electron capture. It doesn't affect U238 or other alpha-decaying radionuclides. Whose half-lives remain resolutely unaffected by physical state, as data from supernovae and the Oklo natural nuclear reactor clearly demonstrate. Plus, we have other experiments determining that the fine-structure constant, which has an impact upon radionuclide decay rates, has remained precisely that - a constant. Any variation in that constant has been empirically determined to be less than 10-8, which again is way too small to be of use to support the myth that the entire universe is only 6,000 years old. Indeed, some experiments suggest that the upper bound for variation of α is as low as 10-15, which is entirely consistent with a 13.6 billion year old universe, and wholly inconsistent with a universe only 6,000 years old.

All of which leaves creationists with no other recourse but to play duplicitous apologetics with science.