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Potassium occurs in two stable isotopes (Ar atoms trapped inside minerals.What simplifies things is that potassium is a reactive metal and argon is an inert gas: Potassium is always tightly locked up in minerals whereas argon is not part of any minerals. So assuming that no air gets into a mineral grain when it first forms, it has zero argon content.With each increment in quality, more subtle sources of error have been found and taken into account.Radioactive elements were incorporated into the Earth when the Solar System formed.The site also must be geologically meaningful, clearly related to fossil-bearing rocks or other features that need a good date to join the big story.Lava flows that lie above and below rock beds with ancient human fossils are a good—and true—example.
Three argon isotopes are measured: Ar is determined by comparison to it.
All rocks and minerals contain tiny amounts of these radioactive elements.
Radioactive elements are unstable; they breakdown spontaneously into more stable atoms over time, a process known as radioactive decay.
Because Ar has a very short half-life, it is guaranteed to be absent in the sample beforehand, so it's a clean indicator of the potassium content.
The advantage is that all the information needed for dating the sample comes from the same argon measurement. This method is commonly called "argon-argon dating."The physical procedure for K.
These dating methods have been under constant improvement for more than 50 years.