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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).

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.

The two curves cross each other at half life = 1.00.

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.

Because of radioactivity, the fraction of rubidium-87 decreases from an initial value of 100% at the time of formation of the mineral, and approaches zero with increasing number of half lives.

At the same time, the fraction of strontium-87 increases from zero and approaches 100% with increasing number of half-lives.

Any argon present in a mineral containing potassium-40 must have been formed as the result of radioactive decay.

F, the fraction of K40 remaining, is equal to the amount of potassium-40 in the sample, divided by the sum of potassium-40 in the sample plus the calculated amount of potassium required to produce the amount of argon found. In spite of the fact that it is a gas, the argon is trapped in the mineral and can't escape.

The creationist "argon escape" theory does not support their young earth model.) The argon age determination of the mineral can be confirmed by measuring the loss of potassium.