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In addition, the initial amount of K that you started with is never measured directly; instead, it is assumed to always be .0117% of the total potassium present, which is the known distribution in nature.This has a standard deviation, so it also contributes to the margin of error.

This dating technique depends on the fact that the radioactive isotope of potassium, K captures one of its electrons and merges with it, turning the proton into a neutron and a neutrino, and converting the potassium into argon.

by Brian Dunning Filed under General Science, Natural History, Religion Skeptoid Podcast #146 March 24, 2009 Podcast transcript | Download | Subscribe Listen: Today we're going to point our skeptical eye at one of the key players in the debate between geologists and Young Earthers over the age of the Earth. Steven Austin took a sample of dacite from the new lava dome inside Mount St. The dacite sample was known to have been formed from a 1986 magma flow, and so its actual age was an established fact. Austin submitted the sample for radiometric dating to an independent laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The results came back dating the rock to 350,000 years old, with certain compounds within it as old as 2.8 million years. Austin's conclusion is that radiometric dating is uselessly unreliable. Austin chose a dating technique that is inappropriate for the sample tested, and charged that he deliberately used the wrong experiment in order to promote the idea that science fails to show that the Earth is older than the Bible claims.

However, all of these numbers are probabilities, not absolutes.

You need to have a statistically meaningful amount of argon before your result would be considered significant.

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