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17-Mar-2017 22:10

"It was not until the 1950s that the age of the universe was finally revised and put safely beyond the age of the Earth, which had at last reached its true age of 4.56 billion years," Lewis said.

"Physicists suddenly gained a new respect for geologists." For the record, the universe is now thought to have debuted, at least in its latest incarnation, about 13.7 billion ago.

Radioactivity was discovered following experiments on the luminescence of uranyl double sulphate crystals caused by exposure to ultraviolet light.

The phenomenon was noted in the walls of cathode ray tubes and this led Henri Becquerel to determine whether uranium compounds emit X-rays.

Most scientists today believe that life has existed on the earth for billions of years.

This belief in long ages for the earth and the existence of life is derived largely from radiometric dating.

Before so-called radiometric dating, Earth's age was anybody's guess.

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From the fragments, scientists calculated the relative abundances of elements that formed as radioactive uranium decayed over billions of years.

This suggested that natural uranium ores, for instance pitchblende, might contain more powerful radiation emitters than uranium.