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Keep Exploring Britannica Atom. Atom, smallest unit into which matter can be divided without the release of electrically charged particles. Democracy, literally, rule by the people. Education, discipline that is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like…. So the good thing about that, as opposed to something like carbon, it can be used to date really, really, really old things.
So argon is right over here. It has 18 protons. So when you think about it decaying into argon, what you see is that it lost a proton, but it has the same mass number. So one of the protons must of somehow turned into a neutron. And it actually captures one of the inner electrons, and then it emits other things, and I won't go into all the quantum physics of it, but it turns into argon And you see calcium on the periodic table right over here has 20 protons.
So this is a situation where one of the neutrons turns into a proton. This is a situation where one of the protons turns into a neutron. And what's really interesting to us is this part right over here. Because what's cool about argon, and we study this a little bit in the chemistry playlist, it is a noble gas, it is unreactive.
Potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating
And so when it is embedded in something that's in a liquid state it'll kind of just bubble out. It's not bonded to anything, and so it'll just bubble out and just go out into the atmosphere.
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So what's interesting about this whole situation is you can imagine what happens during a volcanic eruption. Let me draw a volcano here. So let's say that this is our volcano. And it erupts at some time in the past.
So it erupts, and you have all of this lava flowing. That lava will contain some amount of potassium And actually, it'll already contain some amount of argon But what's neat about argon is that while it's lava, while it's in this liquid state-- so let's imagine this lava right over here. It's a bunch of stuff right over here.
I'll do the potassium And let me do it in a color that I haven't used yet. I'll do the potassium in magenta. It'll have some potassium in it. I'm maybe over doing it. It's a very scarce isotope.
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But it'll have some potassium in it. And it might already have some argon in it just like that. But argon is a noble gas. It's not going to bond anything. And while this lava is in a liquid state it's going to be able to bubble out. It'll just float to the top. It has no bonds. And it'll just evaporate. I shouldn't say evaporate.
Potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating (video) | Khan Academy
It'll just bubble out essentially, because it's not bonded to anything, and it'll sort of just seep out while we are in a liquid state. And what's really interesting about that is that when you have these volcanic eruptions, and because this argon is seeping out, by the time this lava has hardened into volcanic rock-- and I'll do that volcanic rock in a different color. One out of every 10, Potassium atoms is radioactive Potassium K These each have 19 protons and 21 neutrons in their nucleus. If one of these protons is hit by a beta particle, it can be converted into a neutron.
With 18 protons and 22 neutrons, the atom has become Argon Ar , an inert gas. For every K atoms that decay, 11 become Ar How is the Atomic Clock Set? When rocks are heated to the melting point, any Ar contained in them is released into the atmosphere. When the rock recrystallizes it becomes impermeable to gasses again.
As the K in the rock decays into Ar, the gas is trapped in the rock.
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