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These long time periods are computed by measuring the ratio of daughter to parent substance in a rock and inferring an age based on this ratio.

This age is computed under the assumption that the parent substance (say, uranium) gradually decays to the daughter substance (say, lead), so the higher the ratio of lead to uranium, the older the rock must be.

Lava (properly called magma before it erupts) fills large underground chambers called magma chambers.

Most people are not aware of the many processes that take place in lava before it erupts and as it solidifies, processes that can have a tremendous influence on daughter to parent ratios.

But at the same time, it will be enriched in the elements contained in the later forming minerals, namely sodium and potassium.

Further, the silicon content of the melt becomes enriched toward the latter stages of crystallization.

The following quote from The Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology by Tarbuck & Lutgens, pp.

55-57, (1987), gives us an idea of the tremendous complexity of the processes that occur when magma solidifies.

For example, at the stage when about 50 percent of the magma has solidified, the melt will be greatly depleted in iron, magnesium, and calcium, because these elements are found in the earliest formed minerals.Lava erupting earlier would come from the top of the magma chamber, and lava erupting later would come from lower down.A number of processes could cause the parent substance to be depleted at the top of the magma chamber, or the daughter product to be enriched, both of which would cause the lava erupting earlier to appear very old according to radiometric dating, and lava erupting later to appear younger.The general idea is that many different minerals are formed, which differ from one another in composition, even though they come from the same magma.The mineral makeup of an igneous rock is ultimately determined by the chemical composition of the magma from which it crystallized.

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