Photo: Guy Berthault, the author is a graduate of The Ecole Polytechnique, France, and a member of the International Association of Sedimentologists and lives in Paris, France.
Submitted by A. Slater (Thank you A.-it is interesting :0) )
Article: Analysis of the Main Principles of Stratigraphy on the Basis of Experimental Data
A New Approach : Paleohydraulic Analysis by Guy Berthault
“When I started my experiments on strata formation I was surprised to find how little work had been done on the subject in the past. Of course, sediments had been examined and flume experiments performed in connection with building and other projects, but none with the object of explaining the mechanics of stratification.
I searched the data banks but found little to help with my research. I began to realise that the basic principles of superposition, continuity and initial horizontality laid down in the seventeenth century had been accepted, albeit with developments, virtually without question. There seemed to have been little attempt to examine the actual mechanics involved.
Yet a few simple experiments, first with laminae and later with strata revealed that the time needed for micro or macro strata formation was of quite a different order to that generally accepted. The implications were far-reaching both as concerns the geological time-scale and the fossil record. It was not until 1999 that there seemed to be an awakening to the idea that geological ages are measured by the time taken for sediments to deposit and not by biological revolutions or orogeny.
Prof. Gabriel Gohau of the French Geological Society confirmed this fact in his book A History of Geology (1999):
Â« Ce qui mesure le temps, ce sont les durĂ©es de sĂ©dimentation, sur lesquelles tout le monde est plus ou moins dâaccord, et non celles des orogenĂšses et des Â« rĂ©volutions Â» biologiques. Â»
(Translation: Time is measured by the time taken for sediments to deposit, a fact upon which everybody is more or less agreed, and not by orogenesis or âbiological ârevolutionsâ)
Prof. Gohau mentioned in his work how Charles Lyell was influenced in the construction of the geological time scale by his belief in biological Â« revolutionsÂ» occurring over 240 millions of years. In the 20th century this figure was replaced by radiometric âabsoluteâ dating of 525 million years. Such a figure is based upon the belief that igneous rocks can be dated radiometrically.
Criticisms of radiometric dating have been growing over recent years and following the chronology shown by our experiments I have looked at the basic premises upon which such dating is based. There indeed seem to be good physical reasons to challenge it.
In his book âRadioelementsâ (Masson 1966) Daniel Blanc wrote: âno variation of the radioactive constant has been observed whatever the experimental conditions, showing that it is independent of the conditions in which the radio-elements are placed.â
This is particularly the case for temperature and pressure which determine the change of state of magma to crystalline rock. Radioactivity would not, therefore, appear to be affected by the change of state; consequently it could not be used to date an igneous rock at the moment of its crystallisation.
Moreover, the elements present in the rock at the time of crystallisation came from the magma in which gravitation determined their position: they need not necessarily, therefore, be parent and daughter from the same radioactive element.
The problem of exaggerated time scales resulted from the work of Nicolas Stenon, originator of geological principles in the seventeenth century. Stenon did not take into account the effect of a turbulent water current on the formation of strata. His principles were based upon his observations but since no hydraulic laboratories existed at the time his principles were not tested experimentally.
Our experiments on the formation of strata are fundamental because they demonstrate, âinter aliaâ, that in a continuous turbulent current many superposed strata form simultaneously and progress together in the direction of the current; they do not form successively as believed originally. These experiments explain a mechanism of strata building, showing empirically the rapid formation of strata.
The important advances in sequence stratigraphy that have been taking place during the period of our research harmonise with our experiments. For instance, systems tracts composed of several strata are considered isochronous by sequential stratigraphy; a fact that we have demonstrated in the laboratory.
The paleovelocity of current below which particles of given size are deposited and the corresponding capacity of sedimentary transport of the current can be determined experimentally. These two criteria ascertain the time required for sequence deposition. Consequently, recent paleohydraulic analyses undertaken by our colleagues in Russia confirm the shorter time for sequences to deposit than the geological time attributed to it.
As reported in the latest publication (G.Berthault, A.Lalomov, M.Tugarova., Lithological and Mineral Resources. Vol.1, 2011) Reprint Source the time of sedimentation of the St. Petersburg sequence represents only 0.05% of the time refered to by the geologic time scale.
We believe the foregoing shows the need for a fundamental revision of geological chronology integrating the new data and based upon observation checked by experiment.”…Guy Berthault.