Sunday, September 09, 2012

nuclear decay rates and solar activity

wavewatching | Radioactive decay is supposed to be the ultimate random process, immutably governed by an element's half life and nothing else. There is no way to determine when a single radioactive atom will spontaneously decay, nor any way to speed-up or slow down the process. This iron clad certainty has always been the best argument of opponents to conventional nuclear fission power generation, as it means that the inevitable nuclear waste will have to be kept isolated from the biosphere for million of years (notwithstanding recent research attempts at stimulated transmutation of some of the longer lasting waste products.)

There is a video talk on this phenomenon. It takes some patience to sit through, but gives a more complete picture in explaining how these observed patterns can be correlated to the the Sun's core activity with surprising accuracy. The evidence for the reality of this effect is surprisingly good, and that is rather shocking. It does not fit into any established theory at this time. Fist tap Dale.


John Kurman said...

My gut say this feels right. Flavored neutrinos, the weak force, tied to nuclear decay, the only known weak force phenom, sounds right. Pity there are no neutrino detectors on the Voyager or Pioneer probes. That would settle the hash PDQ.

Tom said...

rather reputable research power-houses that make these results difficult to dismiss.

The results may hold water or not, but brand-name thinking unfortunately doesn't work on this kind of thing.

Tom said...

The original paper is on Arxiv:

The authors of the paper show that most of their observed effect is correlated with environmental temperature (and also with some voltage measured somewhere). Somehow those plots don't make it into the IT guy's blog post.

The authors go on to argue that environmental effects (say heating of the measurement equipment) can't completely account for the fluctuation in the measurements, because the phase of the two environmental influences they considered is off (a little) w/r/t the fluctuation in the measurement data. They don't try to determine what specific environmental effects they in fact have, or try to collect data on a control sample with different radioactive properties, so re the phase argument, who knows? Anything's possible, of course, but anything was already possible.

These folks need to present a far better analysis of their equipment's performance before they come out and claim they've seen new physics. It's very common (I'm tempted to say universal) in experimental work to look at a possible, hypothetical environmental source of error which doesn't completely rule out some weird possibility in the physics you're trying to measure. Unfortunately that in no way validates the weird physics that we're all hoping to find.

Tom said...

Bleh somehow my close-italics tag didn't work, sorry.

Tom said...

Evidence against correlation between decay rates and earth-sun distance

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