25 November 2008

Seasonal Variation In Radioactivity

There is persausive scientific data to indicate that on Earth, Silicon-32 and Radium-226, and probably other but not all radioactive isotypes, have radioactive half lives that are proportionate to one divided by the square of the distance from the Earth to the Sun. This varies over the course of the year with the seasons.

Radioactivity is greater further from the sun, and slower closer to the sun.

My first thought was to wonder if this might be a time dilation due to gravity as a result of general relativity. The direction of the conclusion is right. Deeper in the gravity well, where time moves slower, radioactivity is decreased. But, there are problems with this analysis.

First, clocks on Earth should undergo the same time dilation as the radioactive isotypes they measure. Thus, the radioactivity level would have to be a function of, for example, change in time squared, rather than time itself, something that ordinarily wouldn't be apparent.

Second, time dilation in general relativity isn't directly proportional to the strength of the gravitation field. Instead, it is a complex non-liner relationship, although I haven't done the analysis to see if a linear relationship to gravitational field strength might be a good approximation in a weak field, something that is true of many complex non-linear relationships.

Of course, one divided by distance from Earth squared is also proportionate to surface area of a circle concentric with the sun. In other words, if some particle is spewed from the sun (say gravitons or neutrinos or photons), in equal amounts in all directions, the formula would track the flux of particles. This theory was discussed in the article linked above.

Given the direction of the change, these particles would have to tend to suppress radiation in some kinds of isotypes.

At any rate, this is one of the most promising discoveries for producing new physics in a long time and bears mention.

Also notable is a recent atom smashing experiment that is detecting muons (higher generation electrons) where they are not expected.

In the far less impressive catagory are new quantum chromdynamics (i.e. strong force) calculatios that establish proton and neutron masses from quark and gluon constants to plus or minus 4% from first principles. This sounds impressing until you've seen somebody do this kind of theoretical physics work and learn that playing around with math and constants can easily and in multiple ways produce much more accurate results with only a little noodling. When the theory can come up with numbers in the 0.4% or 0.04% range, which even at that accuracy can still have practical experiemental significance, I'll start getting interested.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The experiments have since been contradicted.