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Creation's Tiny Mystery
Chapter 4: Secondary Polonium Halos Fuel the Controversy

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New Data Support the Global Flood Model

It is quite significant that the elliptical polonium halos appear in coalified wood specimens from three different geological formations in the Colorado Plateau deposits. The importance of this observation can hardly be overestimated. In the evolutionary scenario those formations represent three geological periods: Triassic, 180 to 230 million years ago; Jurassic, 135 to 180 million years ago; and Eocene, 35 to 60 million years ago. The occurrence of the elliptical secondary 210Po halos in specimens from all of these formations is evidence par excellence that the wood in all of them was in the same gel-like condition when infiltrated by a uranium solution. These data fit the flood model perfectly.

Another vital piece of scientific data relates to the question of how much time elapsed from the formation of the circular polonium halos to the time [p. 57] of compression. The length of this period would have remained uncertain had it not been for the discovery of "dual" polonium halos such as shown in Figure 4.1 (b) and the Radiohalo Catalogue. These "dual" 210Po halos, which I have seen thus far in Triassic and Jurassic specimens, exhibit both a circular and elliptical outline. (The search for dual halos in "Eocene" wood has been hindered by lack of material.) Initially, I was puzzled as to how two differently shaped halos could develop around the same center. Then I realized that the halo centers, composed of lead and selenium, could also have captured another uranium daughter, 210Pb. Since this isotope of lead decays with a half-life of about 22 years to 210Po, a second 210Po halo could develop within about 20 years after the first one had formed. If there was no deformation of the wood, then both halos would remain circular and they would exactly overlap. Or if the wood was deformed after about 20 years, then both halos would be compressed into an elliptical shape and they still would overlap.

However, if deformation of the wood occurred within just a few years after the introduction of the uranium, then only one 210Po halo could have been compressed because only one (from 210Po) had then formed. Several years later another circular halo could develop (as 210Pb decayed to 210Po) and superimpose on the elliptical halo. Provided there was no further deformation, these two halos would retain their respective shapes and now appear as the "dual" halo shown in Figure 4.1(b). From this sequence a very relevant conclusion emerges: only a few years elapsed from the introduction of the uranium to the time when the wood was compressed. These data very specifically support the flood model, which includes considerable readjustment and deformation of freshly deposited sedimentary rocks in the years after the flood waters receded.

Additional data on the coalified wood specimens were obtained in collaboration with some colleagues. We studied radiohalos in coalified wood using the same type of advanced scientific instruments that had been used on halos in granites. A report describing the outcome of these collaborative studies was published in the October 15, 1976, issue of Science (Gentry et al. 1976a; Appendix). The evidence obtained in these experiments suggested a common source for the uranium in all the coalified wood specimens. These data implied only one uranium solution had infiltrated the different wood specimens.

This result, coupled with the observations just described, permits some rather firm conclusions to be drawn. In particular, a single uranium solution means the uranium infiltration occurred nearly simultaneously in all [p. 58] the wood specimens. And since the elliptical polonium halos show the wood specimens taken from the Jurassic, Triassic, and Eocene formations were all in the same gel-like condition at the time of infiltration, it inevitably follows that these geological formations were all deposited at about the same time. Likewise, the presence of dual polonium halos in wood specimens taken from both Jurassic and Triassic deposits provides strong evidence that the event which compressed the wood occurred simultaneously in both cases. This is exactly what would be expected on the basis of a near simultaneous deposition of all the wood at the time of the flood.

On the other hand, the data just discussed directly contradict the view that the Jurassic, Triassic, and Eocene formations in the Colorado Plateau were laid down tens of millions of years apart. If the evolutionary scenario were correct, the wood in the Triassic (oldest) formation would have turned into coalified wood millions of years before the Eocene layer was deposited. In this case compressed halos could not have formed. The above evidences contradict the evolutionary view that a hundred million years or more separate certain formations in the Colorado Plateau, supporting instead a rapid deposition of them all.

Earlier in this chapter I noted that well-preserved fossils in various geological formations around the world are often cited as evidence of a rapid burial. This raises a significant question: Is there any similar physical evidence, apart from the compressed halos, which would suggest that the wood pieces now in the Colorado Plateau formations were encased in sediments somewhat rapidly (that is, before decay set in)? Such evidence, if it exists, would be most clearly impressed on the investigator who actually collected the coalified wood specimens from the uranium mines which were then operating in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. That scientist, who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, subsequently published a report on his studies (and later kindly provided me with many coalified wood specimens). One sentence in the following excerpt from his report succinctly describes the condition of the wood pieces as he first saw them:

The coalified wood in these sediments ranges in size from finely divided intergranular fragments visible with a hand lens to entire tree trunks many feet long and still having attached branches and roots. The larger pieces of coalified wood are compressed or uncompressed, black or brown in color, and may or may not contain siliceous, calcitic, or dolomitic fillings replacing the original pithy cores. Some coalified fragments are still flexible when first collected but become brittle when dried. Black and brown fragments are occasionally superimposed upon each other; the former have the [p. 59] appearance of lignite, whereas the latter outwardly resemble vitrain. . . . (Breger 1974, 100—italics mine)

I suggest the flexibility of some freshly collected wood fragments is strong evidence of a rapid deposition.

Returning to the subject of my own studies of the coalified wood specimens, I now summarize some other implications of the investigations published in the 1976 Science report:

(1) Uranium to lead ratios were found suggesting that the various Colorado Plateau formations are only several thousand years old instead of the 60 to 200-million-year age required by the evolutionary time scale. Timewise this evidence agrees with the scriptural chronology concerning the time (ca 2300 b.c.) when the worldwide flood occurred. Thus, the entire radiometric age-dating scheme developed over the past eighty years is called into question.

(2) The coalification process—whereby organic material such as plant vegetation or wood turns into coal—can occur in a year or less. This result contradicts the presumed tens of thousands of years (or more) thought necessary for the coalification process. Interestingly, I have found references to experimental data suggesting that, under certain laboratory conditions, the process of coalification can occur over just a few days (Stutzer 1940, 105-106; Larsen 1985). Such data are consistent with my results.

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Earth Science Associates