PHYS 141: How Scientists Date the Earth

Course DescriptionIntroduction to the science behind the most common techniques used to date materials and events on Earth, including the strengths and limitations of each technique. Specifically, we will look at relative dating, dendrochronology, several radiometric dating methods, ice cores, and sediment cores. We will also discuss the relationship between the scientific theory and the Bible.

Catalog DescriptionAn exploration of what science is and how science changed our understanding of who we are and our place in the universe. This question will be explored as it relates to a topic of a particular science discipline. One hour lecture and three hours lab each week. Liberal Arts.

Folded cliffs at Loughshinny village in Ireland. Picture taken by: Siim Sepp

Useful Information

Class Time                         TR 2:30-4:20 PM, Paine 118
Instructor                          Dr. Hoffman
Office Hours                    
MWF 10-11 AM, Paine 107


Course Syllabus


Relative Dating Worksheet
Radioactive Decay
Mass Spectrometry
Isochron Methods
Step Annealing Methods
Cosmogenic Nuclide Methods
Disequilibrium Methods
Radiation Damage Methods
Rough draft of term paper
Term paper




Term Paper & Fallacies
Relative Dating
Intro to Radioactive Decay
Isotopes and the Strong force

Lab Activities

Relative Dating Worksheet
Diffusion of a Liquid into a Solid
Is it Radioactive?
Radioactive Half-Life