JGE 1990 - Volume 38


Using Melting Ice to Teach Radiometric Dating
Donald Underkofler Wise, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Radiometric dating is extremely diffcult to teach in an interesting, practical way to elementary geology classes. A teaching exercise can use the measurable transition of ice to water as a substitute for radioactive decay. The students are challenged to a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which they construct their own decay curves of melting ice to determine time zero. In the process, the analogies to radiometric dating and some elementary thermodynamics are explained. The fact that students can do their own dating to derive a reasonably accurate time of origin is a great aid in helping convince them of the validity of geologic dating. Keywords: ice, dating, geologic time, thermodynamics.
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