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It is not until we understand this fundamental fact that the antics of the players in the dating game make sense. But for the geologists (and evolutionary biologists as shown below), 20 Ma was far too short because they envisaged the earth was unimaginably old.
In Kelvin’s case, he assumed the earth was initially a molten blob and calculated how long it would take for the blob to cool (assuming numbers for all the relevant parameters such as its initial temperature, conductivity and reflectivity). Kelvin knew their long ages flowed from their assumption that geological processes have always operated slowly, like they do at present.
In a game, the score is determined, not by impersonal scientific measurement, but by the strength, skill and creativity of the players.
The rules of play are not laws of nature, but arbitrarily agreed by the players, and sometimes changed during play.
The dynamics changed dramatically when (Antoine-) Henri Becquerel (1852–1908) discovered radioactivity in 1896.
The upcoming generation had a new weapon and were about to dislodge him. By the end of the 1800s, Lord Kelvin was saying that the earth was between 40 million and 20 million years old, with a ‘personal preference’ for the lower value (p. Of course Kelvin had not measured the age (otherwise he would not talk about ‘personal preference’), but he had calculated it (or rather, logically his methods could calculate at best an —assumed because, without an eyewitness report, we cannot travel back in time to observe what happened.This reality is not generally recognized—that it is impossible to measure the age of something scientifically—impossible. You could only say whether it seemed reasonable, and Kelvin certainly thought so.The numbers quoted for the age of the earth (or the age of the dinosaurs or the age of a volcano) are the outworking of personal beliefs, made to look authoritative by much technical equipment and complicated calculations. For a start, it agreed with similar calculations of the age of the sun by Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894).We see this acutely demonstrated in the events she describes..Lewis described how Arthur and his friend ‘were on the edge of their seats with the excitement of it all, for not only did they become familiar with all the arguments, they also got to know all the big names in science at that time—William Ramsay, Ernest Rutherford, Frederick Soddy and Robert Strutt’ (p. Watching exchange influenced Holmes to take up the sport.