Wiens has a Ph D in Physics, with a minor in Geology.
His Ph D thesis was on isotope ratios in meteorites, including surface exposure dating.
Measuring the uranium-to-lead ratios in the oldest rocks on Earth gave scientists an estimated age of the planet of 4.6 billion years.
Segment from A Science Odyssey: "Origins."Geologists have calculated the age of Earth at 4.6 billion years.
Using fossils as guides, they began to piece together a crude history of Earth, but it was an imperfect history.
After all, the ever-changing Earth rarely left a complete geological record.
The rates of decay of various radioactive isotopes have been accurately measured in the laboratory and have been shown to be constant, even in extreme temperatures and pressures.
These rates are usually expressed as the isotope's half-life--that is, the time it takes for one-half of the parent isotopes to decay.
Some radioactive parent isotopes decay almost instantaneously into their stable daughter isotopes; others take billions of years.But for humans whose life span rarely reaches more than 100 years, how can we be so sure of that ancient date? Even the Greeks and Romans realized that layers of sediment in rock signified old age.But it wasn't until the late 1700s -- when Scottish geologist James Hutton, who observed sediments building up on the landscape, set out to show that rocks were time clocks -- that serious scientific interest in geological age began.Radiometric dating--the process of determining the age of rocks from the decay of their radioactive elements--has been in widespread use for over half a century.There are over forty such techniques, each using a different radioactive element or a different way of measuring them.and is now the principal source of information about the absolute age of rocks and other geological features, including the age of fossilized life forms or the age of the Earth itself, and can also be used to date a wide range of natural and man-made materials.