Origin & Evolution of Life: January 2010

A new paper in Science from NAI's Arizona State University team indicates that a trusted equation for calculating the age of the solar system may need rewriting. The team's measurements show that one of the equation's assumptions -- that certain kinds of uranium always appear in the same relative quantities in meteorites -- is wrong.

The differences in the quantities of uranium could mean that current estimates of the age of the solar system overshoot that age by 1 million years or more. Historical estimates place the age at about 4.5 billion years--a number that is not precise enough to show a difference of one million--but more finely honed recent calculations place the age at more like 4.5672 billion years. One million years is still an eyeblink at this scale, representing the difference between 4.566 and 4.567, but this difference is important in understanding the infant solar system. [Source NAI Newsletter]