"To create buzz about an otherwise arcane subject, the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed off a tiny speck of zircon crystal believed to be the oldest known piece of Earth at about 4.4 billion years old."
MSNBC and Geophysical World have the details.
Simon Wilde holding the slide mounted specimen
Scientists consider the speck of zircon crystal to be 4.4 billion years old. It is important because:
"It's not very much to look at because it's so very small. But to me, the miraculous thing about the crystal is that we've been able to make such wide-ranging inferences about the early Earth," Valley said. "This is our first glimpse into the earliest history of the Earth."
What are those inferences?
"Analysis of the object in 2001 by John Valley, a UW-Madison professor of geology and geophysics, startled researchers around the world by concluding that the early Earth, instead of being a roiling ocean of magma, was cool enough to have oceans and continents — key conditions for life."
"Valley found that the planet had cooled to about 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) less than 200 million years after it was formed. Before the research, the oldest evidence for liquid water on the planet was from a rock estimated to be much younger — 3.8 billion years old."
What will the ID and YEC creationists make of this?