Using Melting Ice to Teach Radiometric Dating
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- Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
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This page first made public: Feb 25, 2006
- Explore ice melting as an analogue to radiometric decay.
Context for Use
This activity is appropriate for use in an introductory geology course as a means to discuss the issues of radiometric dating and geologic time.
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Large, thin-walled metal funnels are best because of their high thermal conductivity.
- Don't allow too much time between taking the ice out of the freezer and putting it into the apparatus. Some supercooling is desirable.
- Use a large vertical scale on the graphs to produce a steep slope and enable students to easily project the line back to time-zero.
- Start the activity before class begins so that students don't have to deal with the thermal disequilibrium issues at the outset.
- The first couple of data point can be supplied to shorten the activity.
- Funnel and Ring Stand
- Medium sized graduated cylinder
- Chopped/Cubed Ice
- Graph Paper for plotting the melting curve
The author's original article has suggestions for a storyline to go along with the activity.
When students have finished plotting their data, they should check their answer for time-zero against the answer provided by the instructor. Student participation is the aim of this exercise.
References and Resources
Quantiative Skills AddressedInterpretation of graphical information, Estimation
Geoscience Topics CoveredTime/Earth History
Contact the Author
Controlled Vocabulary Terms
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity:Short Activity:Demonstration
Special Interest: Quantitative
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level
Quantitative Skills: Logarithms/Exponential Functions:Exponential Growth and Decay, Graphs, Estimation
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Earth System Topics: Time/Earth History, Solid Earth:Earth Materials
Topics: Time/Earth History
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Geochemistry