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Yet lava flows that have occurred in the present have been tested soon after they erupted, and they invariably contained much more argon-40 than expected.1 For example, when a sample of the lava in the Mt. Helens crater (that had been observed to form and cool in 1986) ( age yield incorrect old potassium-argon ages due to the extra argon-40 that they inherited from the erupting volcanoes, then ancient lava flows of unknown ages could likewise have inherited extra argon-40 and yield excessively old ages.

There are similar problems with the other radioactive “clocks.” For example, consider the dating of Grand Canyon’s basalts (rocks formed by lava cooling at the earth’s surface).

Part 2 explains how scientists run into problems when they make assumptions about what happened .

An hourglass is a helpful analogy to explain how geologists calculate the ages of rocks.

Yet this view is based on a misunderstanding of how radiometric dating works.

Part 1 (in the previous issue) explained how scientists observe unstable atoms changing into stable atoms in the present.

They also measure the sand grains in the bottom bowl (the daughter isotope, such as lead-206 or argon-40, respectively).

8 Physicists have carefully measured the radioactive decay rates of parent radioisotopes in laboratories over the last 100 or so years and have found them to be essentially constant (within the measurement error margins).

Furthermore, they have not been able to significantly change these decay rates by heat, pressure, or electrical and magnetic fields.

Because of such contamination, the less than 50-year-old lava flows at Mt.

Ngauruhoe, New Zealand (), yield a rubidium-strontium “age” of 133 million years, a samarium-neodymium “age” of 197 million years, and a uranium-lead “age” of 3.908 billion years!

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