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Why does the lava dome provide an opportunity to test the accuracy of radioisotope dating? First, radioisotope dating methods can be used mainly on volcanic (neous) rock, such as dacite.
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(Fossil-bearing sedimentary rock cannot be directly dated radioisotopiy.) Second, the date of formation of the dacite is known.
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(This is one of the rare instances in which, to the question, "Were you there? ") It is widely assumed that the radioisotope clock is set at zero and starts ticking when neous rock solidifies from a molten state.This process proceeds very slowly at a known rate, having a half-life for potassium-40 of 1.3 billion years.
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It is based on the fact that potassium-40 (an isotope or "variety" of the element potassium) spontaneously "decays", becoming argon-40 (an isotope of the element argon).
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