Potassium half life dating
How can potassium 40 simultaneously have too many of both?
The answer reveals one of the peculiarities of the nuclear forces.
The decay of potassium into argon produces a gaseous atom which is trapped at the time of the crystallization of lava.
The atom can escape when the lava is still liquid, but not after solidification.
Along with uranium and thorium, potassium contributes to the natural radioactivity of rocks and hence to the Earth heat.
This isotope makes up one ten thousandth of the potassium found naturally.
The two decay channels of potassium 40The decay scheme of potassium-40 is unusual.
Beta-minus decay indicates a nucleus with too many neutrons, electron capture a nucleus with too many protons.
Quite remarkable also is the very long half-life of 1;251 billion years, exceptional for a beta decay.
This is explained by a large jump in the internal rotation (or spin ) of the nucleus during the decay, which almost forbids the transition particularly difficult, therefore making it extremely slow.
Without this characteristic gamma ray, it would be impossible to detect and identify the decay of potassium 40.
The neutrinos emitted in these captures defy detection.