I am writting a science fiction novel. In my novel, some scientists find an important object in an Earth-like planet: a bunch of spherical synthetic quartzites. These quartizes are approximately 200 millions of years old but they don’t know. Clearly, the scientists (who are more advanced than us) could use some misterious, unspecified method to date the quartizes. However, the most interesting thing for my novel would be undatable quartizes, so that I can build some uncertainty around their meaning and implications. I have read that detrital zyrcons are used to date sedimentary rocks, however, my quartzites are synthetic, manmade (alienmade ), so, they shouldn’t contain detrital zyrcons, they should contain only quartz. I haven’t found any current dating method that can be applied to my quartzites, given their composition and age, but I may be wrong and I would like to be sure. If we can date them, they can also. If we can't I will assume that they can't either.

  • $\begingroup$ Are they found sitting out in the open or underground? Rather than determine the age of the items themselves, you could determine the age of the rock stratum they were found in. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Mar 16 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ They were in a small layer of clay. However, they were extracted in a very uncarefully way (by mistake) so everything is mixed up down and they do not know exactly where they were. – $\endgroup$
    – Marina
    Mar 16 at 17:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Is it possible to date this object?" Sure, if you're pansexual 😁 $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Mar 16 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


As you say, they're artificial, so in theory they could have been made to mimic practically any measurable property. So in that sense it is impossible to date them with any accuracy.


Assuming that the objects had a given (very high) chemical and isotopic purity, and very precise shape at the start, you CAN measure how much that would change over 200 million years of being exposed to the elements.

Mechanical or chemical erosion, gas molecules diffusing into it and of course crystal faults created by solar or cosmic radiation could all be used to calculate upper bounds and approximations for age.

The fact that there are many of them also plays into our hands, if we assume that they had been identical originally.

Of course whether these measurements would yield useful results is up to you, as any of the assumptions could be incorrect, or you can simply get inconclusive measurements and an error bar so large that all the scientists can say is "well, it's somewhere between 0 and 2 billion years, do you have some more of those sphere thingies?".

P.s.: A useful real-world analogy would be to look at how the masses of the various prototype kilograms drifted apart over time despite our best efforts.


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