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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.

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

As the isotopes decay, they give off particles from their nucleus and become a different isotope.

The parent isotope is the original unstable isotope, and daughter isotopes are the stable product of the decay. In the first 5,730 years, the organism will lose half of its C-14 isotopes.

For example, uranium-238 is an isotope of uranium-235, because it has 3 more neutrons in the nucleus.

(Creationists claim that argon escape renders age determinations invalid.

Contrary to creationist claims, it is possible to make that determination, as the following will explain: By way of background, all atoms of a given element have the same number of protons in the nucleus; however, the number of neutrons in the nucleus can vary.

An atom with the same number of protons in the nucleus but a different number of neutrons is called an isotope.

Corina Fiore is a writer and photographer living in suburban Philadelphia. She worked as a staff writer for science texts and has been published in Praxis review materials for beginning teachers.

Radiometric dating is a means of determining the "age" of a mineral specimen by determining the relative amounts present of certain radioactive elements.

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