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This difference is enough to make potassium 40 unstable.The reason for this is that protons, like neutrons, like to exist in pairs in a nucleus.In both argon 40 and calcium 40, however, the number of protons and neutrons are even, granting them that extra stability.The very slow decay of potassium 40 into argon are highly useful for dating rocks, such as lava, whose age is between a million and a billion years.

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The answer reveals one of the peculiarities of the nuclear forces.

IN2P3Potassium 40 has the unusual property of decaying into two different nuclei: in 89% of cases beta-negative decay will lead to calcium 40, while 11% of the time argon 40 will be formed by electron capture followed by gamma emission at an energy of 1.46 Me V.

This 1.46 Me V gamma ray is important, as it allows us to identify when potassium 40 decays.

Potassium 40 contains odd numbers of both – 19 protons and 21 neutrons.

As a result it has one bachelor proton and one bachelor neutron.

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