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Creation's Tiny Mystery
Chapter 13: The Aftermath of the Arkansas Trial

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Final Results Support Young Age of Earth

Another report on the safety of long-term nuclear wastes in granite was completed just prior to my contract expiration date. It was based on collaborative research with two colleagues and was published after I left ORNL under the title "Differential Helium Retention in Zircons: Implications for Nuclear Waste Containment" (Gentry et al. 1982b; Appendix). As the title of the report suggests, we again analyzed microscopic-sized zircons from the same five depths as were used in the lead-retention studies. However, in these experiments the zircons were analyzed for their content of the rare gas helium. [p. 170] These experiments provided even stronger evidence for a several-thousand-year age of the earth than did the lead-retention experiments.

To understand this we must remember that alpha particles emitted in the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium, are in reality nothing more than helium atoms stripped of their electrons. So it follows that helium is produced wherever uranium and thorium occur. This is the source of the helium in the zircons. However, being a gas means that helium can diffuse or migrate much more rapidly than the solid element lead. Indeed, studies have shown that helium migrates out of various minerals, such as zircon, even at room temperatures. Because of this continual loss, scientists have generally given up using the helium content to estimate the radiometric age of zircons found at or near the earth's surface. Thus, according to the evolutionary model, it would be senseless to attempt to measure the helium content of the zircons taken from the deep granite cores. Presumably almost all the helium should have migrated out of the tiny zircons during the billion or so years they were exposed to the higher temperatures at greater depths.

However, on the basis of my creation model I expected something different. That model is based on the occurrence of primordial polonium halos in Precambrian granites as evidence that all such rocks were created on Day 1 of creation week about 6000 years ago. On this basis I thought helium might still be retained in the zircons taken from some of the deep granite cores. Here was one of the clearest and most stringent tests of the creation and evolution models in regard to the age of the earth.

The experiments showed amazingly high retention of helium even at 197°C, directly contradicting the expectation based on the evolutionary model of earth history. These startling results (Gentry et al. 1982b; Appendix) are in complete agreement with my creation model; moreover, they constitute what seems to be the strongest scientific evidence yet discovered for a several-thousand-year age as opposed to a several-billion-year age of the earth. And they complement perfectly the results of my earlier studies on the Colorado Plateau coalified wood specimens. Those studies (Chapter 4) provided evidence for a young age of sedimentary formations previously thought to be several-hundred-million years old.

Paradoxically, just when my research opportunities were about to be withdrawn at ORNL, my long-term goals were being realized with more certainty than ever before. To outward appearances I was losing everything I had worked so diligently to gain—friendship and respect of scientific colleagues and access to the finest of research facilities. In reality, I was succeeding in discovering striking evidence for a young age of the earth, evidence [p. 171] which accords perfectly with the view that the Precambrian granites were all created about the same time. My first and latest scientific discoveries were complementing each other, and my two-decade quest for truth about the origin and age of the earth was being fulfilled. The cost was high in loss of friends, and my financial support remained erratic until it completely disappeared soon after my departure from ORNL. My long association with Columbia Union College came to an end as well. Providentially, I believe, concerned persons made it possible for this book to be written.

End of an Era—A Summary

My original 1969 appointment as guest scientist at the Laboratory was prompted by my research on unusual types of radiohalos. At that time, several laboratories around the world were gearing up their research facilities to search for chemical elements heavier than any previously known. Theoretical studies suggested the existence of superheavy elements, and the search for them was to intensify over the next decade.

The invitation to join ORNL had provided an exceptional opportunity not only to search for superheavy elements but also to utilize their unparalleled research facilities in the investigation of polonium halos. My research endeavors continued to warrant publication in respected scientific journals; thus I was invited year after year to continue as a guest scientist until the time of the trial, twelve and one-half years after beginning my affiliation with the Laboratory. If my research endeavors had been inferior, if my work had not been published in the open literature, or if I had shown prejudicial bias in my publications, the Laboratory management rightly would have terminated my research contract long before they did on June 30, 1982. I had not found superheavy elements in my research efforts, and the Laboratory was justified in terminating my research contract. However, had it not been for the negative reporting of my testimony at the Arkansas trial, I think my most recent research activities regarding nuclear waste storage might have been deemed of sufficient value to warrant continuation of my research at ORNL.

And so my work at ORNL came to an end. My hopes of continuing the search for the elusive superheavy elements apparently had evaporated. I had invested many years looking for them, and despite the ill-fated results of the giant halo experiments at Florida State in 1976, I am still convinced that superheavy elements do exist.

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