Earth is the planet we live on, the third of eight planets in our solar system and the only known place in the universe to support life. Scientists now know the Earth is actually 4.54 billion years old, an age built on many lines of evidence from the geologic record.
Earth is the only planet in the universe known to possess life. The planet boasts several million species of life, living in habitats ranging from the bottom of the deepest ocean to a few miles into the atmosphere. And scientists think far more species remain to be discovered.
The classical Greek philosopher Aristotle, who thought the time had no beginning or end, also believed that Earth was infinitely old, while religious scholars in ancient India, who envisioned a universe that perpetually exploded, expanded and collapsed only to begin anew, calculated that Earth had existed for 1.97 billion years. During the medieval era, various Christian theologians scrutinized the Bible for clues, and came up with estimates of between 5,471 and 7,519 years, according to G. Brent Dalrymple’s book “The Age of the Earth.” From the 1700s and 1800s, an assortment of scientists came up with various figures based on clues ranging from Earth’s rate of cooling and the accumulation of sediment to the chemical evolution of the oceans.
Lord Kelvin, one of the most significant scientists of the 1800s, tested the then-popular age of 100 million years and produced two quantitative tests that showed the earth and sun could be no more than about one-third of this age. Yet his evolutionary colleagues persisted in their belief despite Lord Kelvin’s objections. Since then, many critics have noted that his objections have been explained to their satisfaction. But that misses the point. Many of Kelvin’s colleagues believed in great age despite the evidence, not because of it.
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The oldest rocks on Earth found to date are the Acasta Gneiss in northwestern Canada near the Great Slave Lake, which are 4.03 billion years old. But rocks older than 3.5 billion years can be found on all continents. Greenland boasts the Isua supracrustal rocks (3.7 to 3.8 billion years old), while rocks in Swaziland are 3.4 billion to 3.5 billion years. Samples in Western Australia run 3.4 billion to 3.6 billion years old.