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Atomic dating using isotopes

The sum of protons plus neutrons is the mass number.

We designate a specific group of atoms by using the term "nuclide." A nuclide refers to a group of atoms with specified atomic number and mass number.

Radioactive elements "decay" (that is, change into other elements) by "half lives." If a half life is equal to one year, then one half of the radioactive element will have decayed in the first year after the mineral was formed; one half of the remainder will decay in the next year (leaving one-fourth remaining), and so forth.

The formula for the fraction remaining is one-half raised to the power given by the number of years divided by the half-life (in other words raised to a power equal to the number of half-lives).

Therefore the amount of argon formed provides a direct measurement of the amount of potassium-40 present in the specimen when it was originally formed.

Because argon is an inert gas, it is not possible that it might have been in the mineral when it was first formed from molten magma.

Strontium-87 is a stable element; it does not undergo further radioactive decay.

Potassium-Argon dating: The element potassium (symbol K) has three nuclides, K39, K40, and K41. K40 can decay in two different ways: it can break down into either calcium or argon.

The ratio of calcium formed to argon formed is fixed and known.

It has the same number of protons, otherwise it wouldn't be uranium.

The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom is called its atomic number.

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(Creationists claim that argon escape renders age determinations invalid.