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

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A Professor Notes the Silent Response

The 1976 Science report (Gentry et al. 1976a; Appendix) on halos in coalified wood questions both the conventional geologic age-dating schemes and the uniformitarian interpretation of the entire geologic column. It provides data that distinguish the multiple, primordial polonium-halo types in granites from the single, secondary polonium-halo type in coalified wood. These results challenge all aspects of evolutionary geology, and they did not go unnoticed. A few months after the report was published I received the following letters:

(January 27, 1977)

Dear Dr. Gentry:

I have been patiently scanning the "letters" section of Science since the publication by you and your colleagues of your findings on radiohalos.

The silence is deafening—I think it can be interpreted as "stunned silence," coming as closely as it did on the "neutrino crisis" stemming from a paper published in January 1976 on the absence of the expected neutrino flux from the sun.

[p. 60]

Your results will not greatly trouble the engineer, whether he is a mining engineer, a geophysical engineer, or a ground-water engineer. But the impact on the science of geology, in possibly changing the accepted views as to the duration of geologic time, will be felt for many years.

We are indebted to you and your colleagues for your painstaking observation, the careful wording of your paper, and the courage you have manifested in presenting evidence that contravenes the conventional wisdom of the geological profession. I might add that the findings have direct application in the search for a semi- permanent containment for radwastes.

Again, my commendations for a difficult job, extremely well done.

Very truly yours,

/s/ Raphael G. Kazmann

Raphael G. Kazmann
Professor of Civil Engineering
Louisiana State University

(March 9, 1977)

Dear Dr. Gentry:

Thank you for the reprints. It is apparent that you and your coworkers are unearthing fundamental information which will be difficult, if not impossible, to include in the accepted, uniformitarian-evolutionary, scheme.

Here at LSU we are considering organizing a one or two day conference on geologic time including the age of the sun. There will probably be a number of invited papers and I will suggest to the conference organizer that you be invited, once the decision has been made. If you have any thoughts on possible speakers, please let me know.

Best wishes,

/s/ Raphael G. Kazmann

Raphael G. Kazmann
Professor of Civil Engineering
Louisiana State University

Professor Kazmann correctly perceived that the data have called the evolutionary scheme into question. He also understood that if conventional dating techniques have been in error, as the data suggested, this might raise [p. 61] questions about the procedures currently used to select nuclear waste storage sites. To explore these matters further, he organized a symposium addressing the problems and methods used in measuring geologic time.

Debating the Time Scale

The symposium, "Time: In Full Measure," was held at Louisiana State University in April 1978. There were five invited speakers, including me. The symposium dealt primarily with the various aspects of time measurement and the age of the geological formations. Professor Kazmann, as the convener, published an account of those proceedings in the September 1978 issue of Geotimes (Kazmann 1978), a monthly publication of the American Geological Institute, and in the January 9, 1979, issue of EOS (Kazmann 1979), a weekly publication of the American Geophysical Union. His summary (Kazmann 1979) of my presentation at the symposium is as follows:

. . . His [Gentry's] specialty is the study of minute halos in mica and biotite crystals and, more recently, in coalified wood from uranium-bearing sands in the Colorado Plateau and the Chattanooga Shale. The halos are created by alpha-particles of differing energies emitted by such substances as uranium, thorium, polonium, and other radioactives. He presented microphotographs of an assortment of radiohalos in biotite, fluorite, and cordierite and then a diagram whereby the lines produced by the various alpha emitters can be identified. Among the eight emitters are two isotopes of uranium and three of polonium. [Gentry 1974; Gentry et al. 1974]

The polonium halos, especially those produced by 218Po, are the center of a mystery. The half-life of the isotope is only 3 min. Yet the halos have been found in granitic rocks . . . in all parts of the world, including Scandinavia, India, Canada, and the United States. The difficulty arises from the observation that there is no identifiable precursor to the polonium; it appears to be primordial polonium. If so, how did the surrounding rocks crystallize rapidly enough so that there were crystals available ready to be imprinted with radiohalos by alpha particles from 218Po? This would imply almost instantaneous cooling and crystallization of these granitic minerals, and we know of no mechanisms that will remove heat so rapidly; the rocks are supposed to have cooled over millennia, if not tens of millennia.

His studies of halos in coalified wood [Gentry et al. 1976a; 315] bear directly on the meeting's topic: geochronology. There he and his co-workers were able to define the tiny uranium centers and to distinguish the various halos produced by different alpha emitters.

[p. 62]

However, since the deposits from which the coalified wood was obtained are considered to be of Cretaceous age, and possibly of Jurassic or Triassic age, the ratio between 238U and 206Pb should be low. Instead a number of such halos have been found with uranium-lead ratios ranging from about 2200 to over 64,000. If isotope ratios are to be used as a basis for geologic dating, then presently accepted ages may be too high by a factor of 10,000, admitting the possibility that the ages of the formation are to be measured in millennia. Thus ages of the entire stratigraphic column may contain epochs less than 0.01% the duration of those now accepted and found in the literature. . . . (Kazmann 1979, 19—italics mine)

The publication of this clearly stated evaluation of my results was an important event in my research. Kazmann's account of the LSU symposium in both Geotimes and EOS, two nationally circulated geological news magazines, brought my work to the attention of a much larger segment of the geological community. It was difficult to believe that my contribution to the LSU symposium would go unchallenged.

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