Characteristics of k ar dating
The calcium-potassium age method is seldom used, however, because of the great abundance of nonradiogenic calcium in minerals or rocks, which masks the presence of radiogenic calcium.On the other hand, the abundance of argon in the Earth is relatively small because of its escape to the atmosphere during processes associated with volcanism. This dating method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium-40 to radioactive argon-40 in minerals and rocks; potassium-40 also decays to calcium-40.Thus, the ratio of argon-40 and potassium-40 and radiogenic calcium-40 to potassium-40 in a mineral or rock is a measure of the age of the sample.Most of these principles were formally proposed by Nicolaus Steno (Niels Steensen, Danish), in 1669, although some have an even older heritage that extends as far back as the authors of the Bible.A few principles were recognized and specified later.As an example of how they are used, radiometric dates from geologically simple, fossiliferous Cretaceous rocks in western North America are compared to the geological time scale.
The principle of superposition therefore has a clear implication for the age of a vertical succession of strata.
They are applied by geologists in the same sense that a "null hypothesis" is in statistics -- not necessarily correct, just testable.
In the last 200 or more years of their application, they are valid, but geologists do not assume they are.
However, note that because of the "principle of cross-cutting relationships", careful examination of the contact between the cave infill and the surrounding rock will reveal the true relative age relationships, as will the "principle of inclusion" if fragments of the surrounding rock are found within the infill.
Cave deposits also often have distinctive structures of their own (e.g., spelothems like stalactites and stalagmites), so it is not likely that someone could mistake them for a successional sequence of rock units. Each of them is a testable hypothesis about the relationships between rock units and their characteristics.
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These are often characterised as the norm, rather than the exception.