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Advance Warning System For Solar Flares Hinges On Surprising Hypothesis

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the correlates-with-bofh-laziness dept.

Earth 199

cylonlover writes "Scientists may have hit upon a new means of predicting solar flares more than a day in advance, which hinges on a hypothesis dating back to 2006 that solar activity affects the rate of decay of radioactive materials on Earth. Study of the phenomenon could lead to a new system which monitors changes in gamma radiation emitted from radioactive materials, and if the underlying hypothesis proves correct (abstract), this could lead to solar flare advance warning systems that would assist in the protection of satellites, power systems and astronauts."

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But then (4, Interesting)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#41000433)

radioactive decay is not as random as we thought. So where do we get random numbers that are good?

Re:But then (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000483)

There's an enormous difference between the rate of decay, and predicting a decay. The observation is only the rate is effected, not the occurrence of an individual decay.

Re:But then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000485)

We don't. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanism_(philosophy)

Re:But then (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000577)

Philosophers should just leave discussion of the real world to people who actually can get answers about it, and stay in their little fantasy world and play.

Re:But then (5, Funny)

rwise2112 (648849) | about 2 years ago | (#41000501)

radioactive decay is not as random as we thought. So where do we get random numbers that are good?

Pentium processors?

Re:But then (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#41000837)

s/Pentium/Ivy Bridge [ieee.org]

(...though it's not the first chip to have a hardware RNG.)

Re:But then (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 2 years ago | (#41000907)

>s/Pentium/Ivy Bridge [ieee.org]

And every post Ivy Bridge product. Just sayin'

Re:But then (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41000505)

Just because a flare makes it faster does not remove the entropy. It is still random.

I'd be more concerned about atomic clocks and such.

Re:But then (5, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about 2 years ago | (#41000609)

Atomic clocks aren't based on radioactive decay. Just because they have "atom" in their name doesn't mean they are nuclear, e.g. based on a phenomenon in the atom core. Instead atomic clocks are based on the properties of the electron shells around the atom core.
(Or to put it that way: atomic clocks are based on electromagnetics, not on the strong or the weak interaction.)

Re:But then (2)

show me altoids (1183399) | about 2 years ago | (#41000753)

How about carbon dating then? I have no idea, just asking in case someone knows offhand.

Re:But then (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41000777)

I don't think it's precise enough to be effected by this, as flares are incidental and not a constant thing.

Re:But then (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | about 2 years ago | (#41000913)

Thanks, yeah, you're probably right. After I posted I looked further down the thread and thought, Oh shit, everyone's going to think I'm a creationist nutjob,

Re:But then (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41000797)

IF the rate of radioactive decay changes with flare activity, which seems unlikely, then the rate we use for carbon dating is the average, which will work just fine over any reasonable timespan. Plus the effect is extremely small.

Re:But then (1)

thePjunisher (858667) | about 2 years ago | (#41001005)

Yeah, and carbon dating is also calibrated to known dates, from dendrochronology, among others.

Re:But then (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41000823)

How about carbon dating then? I have no idea, just asking in case someone knows offhand.

Don't worry, you're not the only one here who doesn't how to date carbon, especially if nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen are also involved.

Re:But then (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41000781)

Or in yet other words: Atomic clocks are indeed atomic, unlike most things commonly labelled "atomic" which are actually nuclear.

Re:But then (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41001035)

They use atoms, I believe that justifies the name Atomic.

Re:But then (0)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 2 years ago | (#41000507)

radioactive decay is not as random as we thought.

Radioactive decay exposed to solar radiation isn't as random as we thought.

So where do we get random numbers that are good?

By putting the radioactive decay in a shielded box? Which is what we do already...

Re:But then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000615)

>By putting the radioactive decay in a shielded box? Which is what we do already...

How do you shield against a mechanism of action that isn't even understood, yet? What if the mechanism is based on gravity? Or based on some new, fundamental force we can't even detect, yet?

What then?

Re:But then (3, Interesting)

sgunhouse (1050564) | about 2 years ago | (#41000775)

Don't be silly, it's based on neutrinos. Not that we have an effective way to block those either.

Radioactive decay generally produces neutrinos (or anti-neutrinos) as one of the decay products, hitting the nucleus with the opposite particle (anti-neutrinos if the decay would produce neutrinos, etc.) would tend to promote the decay, though obviously the nucleus is a very small target and (anti-)neutrinos do not interact strongly in any case. But if high solar activity produces an excess of neutrinos, those decays which would normally produce anti-neutrinos will be promoted, or vice versa. (Not my field hence I'm not sure which is actually involved here.)

Re:But then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000801)

Don't be silly, it's based on neutrinos.

They THEORIZE it's based on neutrinos. They have no concrete evidence yet, I hold out for a more exciting explanation, because a new fundamental force would be way more awesome. Being neutrino-induced would be relatively boring.

Re:But then (4, Informative)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 2 years ago | (#41000945)

Don't be silly, it's based on neutrinos.

They THEORIZE it's based on neutrinos. They have no concrete evidence yet, I hold out for a more exciting explanation, because a new fundamental force would be way more awesome. Being neutrino-induced would be relatively boring.

No. They HYPOTHESIZE that it is based on neutrinos.

Re:But then (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 2 years ago | (#41000895)

RdRand

Rubbish (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000447)

Nothing can effect the rate of decay of radioactive materials; it is, has been, and always will be constant. Just like the carbon 12/14 balance.

Re:Rubbish (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41000477)

A pretty bold statement considering how little time we've really understood radioactive materials enough to study them and how many new things we're still finding out about physics.

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000545)

Maybe you care to read a bit more on that topic: http://web.mit.edu/redingtn/www/netadv/XperDecRat.html

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000681)

Sorry: the parent message should have been posted as a child of its grandparent.
(Plus: I forgot my password, and the mail account I registered with is no more existent)

Re:Rubbish (5, Informative)

Goaway (82658) | about 2 years ago | (#41000521)

That is definitely not true. Radioactive decay through electron capture is well known to depend on external factors, including pressure and temperature. Inverse beta decay is an induced decay which depends entirely on an external neutrino flux, such as that from the sun.

Re:Rubbish (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41000931)

The key though is that is beta decay. A process that neutrinos don't participate in.

Re:Rubbish (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41000939)

If this is true, why don't we have neutrino telescopes based on radioactive decay yet? Somehow I'm not convinced that these observations are unequivocal.

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41001113)

We do.

I am most familiar with the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, which was set up to look for evidence of neutrino oscillations in solar neutrinos. The neutrino detection scheme involved photo-detection of Cerenkov radiation from superluminal-in-water decay products from neutrino-assisted beta events. Because of conservation of momentum, directional information from the Cerenkov cone could be used to identify the incoming direction of the neutrinos, which helps to distinguish solar neutrinos from other types of events.

Several neutrino detectors, including I believe the Kamioka detector in Japan, got a good directional signal from SN1987a.
 

Re:Rubbish (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41000557)

Nothing can effect the rate of decay of radioactive materials; it is, has been, and always will be constant. Just like the carbon 12/14 balance.

Half right half wrong.

Here's a whole section of crazy weird isotopes in crazy weird situations undergoing crazy weird decay modes that can be altered:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_decay#Changing_decay_rates [wikipedia.org]

So in general that half of the statement is wrong because there's a microscopic handful of really weird, pretty well understood outliers.

On the other hand your very specific ref to carbon isotope decay rate is apparently correct. That's very well understood, heavily studied, trivially cheaply and repeatedly tested (nice short half lives, more or less).

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000763)

Half right half wrong.

Should have left it there for a plus 5 funny. It's just how it appeared on my screen and I laughed out loud. Cheers for that.

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000787)

> On the other hand your very specific ref to carbon isotope decay rate is apparently correct. That's very well understood, heavily studied, trivially cheaply and repeatedly tested (nice short half lives, more or less).

Didn't RTFA, but the abstract suggests it might be not that clear a situation: http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.5953

Re:Rubbish (0)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41000583)

If you're trying to be a creationist troll, it helps if you avoid making your references so obscure only a seasoned internet debater would even recognise a reference is being made.

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000769)

But all creationists are trolls right? Maybe you meant young earther or old earth denialist?

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000631)

Just like everyone can agree which god did what, where and how quickly, and which humans he likes best.

Re:Rubbish (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41001143)

Oh, the arrogance of the AC.

Nothing can effect the rate of decay of radioactive materials

Uh huh. Want to bet your imaginary physics degree on that?

Just observing [wikipedia.org] a particle (as I understand it; I may have it wrong) is enough to change its decay rate.

Harness (3, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41000465)

Is there any way we could harness the power of solar flares to provide energy (either for space-based installations or to beam back to Earth)? Now if we know when they're coming farther in advance, it seems we could better take advantage of them. Not a continuous stream of energy, to be sure, but it a boost every now and then could help take the load off other sources of energy.

Re:Harness (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#41000551)

Beaming anything back to earth would face the same transmission problems that space-based solar arrays would...and we haven't built one of those even though they could deliver much more reliable power.

Re:Harness (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#41000571)

Is there any way we could harness the power of solar flares to provide energy (either for space-based installations or to beam back to Earth)? Now if we know when they're coming farther in advance, it seems we could better take advantage of them. Not a continuous stream of energy, to be sure, but it a boost every now and then could help take the load off other sources of energy.

Sure, we just need a solar windmill about 10,000 miles in diameter, and a base to rest it on that doesnt cause enough gravity for it to collapse (so the moon is out). Crack that and yes the solar wind would be a pretty reliable source of energy.

Re:Harness (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#41000715)

If you can build something on the scale of effectively harvesting a solar flair for energy, there are any number of easier, most consistent, more powerful (over the long run) sources that you could harvest instead. Your suggestion would be kind of like trying to power a military radio by absorbing the kinetic energy of bullets being fired at the soldier carrying it. Physically possible? Yeah, probably. But there are easier ways to solve the problem.

Re:Harness (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41000943)

They are called solar panels, or more generally most of the life on earth.

Re:Harness (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 2 years ago | (#41001109)

Given that a single solar flare can "release 10% as much energy as the entire Sun, the equivalent of 10 billion one-megaton nuclear bombs" (Source: https://plus.google.com/108952536790629690817/posts/T7RU9pEe3nL ), I'd say this is out of our capacity to harness. However, if we could, considering that the world uses 474×10^18 joules of energy and a solar flare can release up to 6 × 10^25, we could power everything on the planet for the next hundred thousand years or so.

Not Eureka (4, Interesting)

Relic of the Future (118669) | about 2 years ago | (#41000479)

The greatest discoveries don't come from a "Eureka!", but from a "Huh, that's odd..." (Be careful though, the young earthers are already jumping on this to try and disprove carbon dating.)

Re:Not Eureka (1)

TexVex (669445) | about 2 years ago | (#41000655)

the young earthers are already jumping on this to try and disprove carbon dating

Apparently the effect slows the rate of decay, meaning the isotopes are actually slightly older than estimated.

Re:Not Eureka (4, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41000921)

the young earthers are already jumping on this to try and disprove carbon dating

Apparently the effect slows the rate of decay, meaning the isotopes are actually slightly older than estimated.

True believers are above such mundane details. ;-)

Re:Not Eureka (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000689)

If solar flares actually slow down decay, it means objects would be older than they appear. Of course, logic doesn't apply to creationism so I guess they'll find a way to make it "work".

Re:Not Eureka (2)

Sique (173459) | about 2 years ago | (#41000707)

... which is a quote from Isaac Asimov.

Re:Not Eureka (1)

Relic of the Future (118669) | about 2 years ago | (#41001065)

Ah, thank you. I couldn't remember from whom I'd heard it (and he apparently said "funny", not "odd".)

Re:Not Eureka (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41001009)

The greatest discoveries don't come from a "Eureka!", but from a "Huh, that's odd..."

That's funny. I've often seen "Huh, that's odd" in lists of famous last statement. Well, I guess these two aren't exclusive.

Re:Not Eureka (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41001087)

"Local single mom discovers weird trick for predicting solar flares"

Constant? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000481)

If this is the case, then what does this mean for dating methods that depend on decay rates?

Re:Constant? (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | about 2 years ago | (#41001069)

It means a very, very low level of noise that then averages out to close to zero over the timescales involved.

Re:Constant? (1)

leuk_he (194174) | about 2 years ago | (#41001095)

Nothing. Nothing at all.

The average decay rate is not really affected, since it is periodically. Also this effect is only measured in chlorine 36.

the effect is larger than i expected, it is +/- 4%

Carbon dating is NOT affected. It is based on the radioactivity in the athmosphere, which is not a constant over the years anyway. It is calibrated by counting year rings in tree's

Variable rate of decay? (3, Interesting)

mdvolm (68424) | about 2 years ago | (#41000487)

If the rate of radioactive decay can vary, how would this affect things like carbon 14 dating? Very interesting.

Re:Variable rate of decay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000569)

The changes in rates of decay they are discussing probably won't effect carbon 14 dating very much. If I remember correctly they were talking about a temporary 1% change in the rate.

Re:Variable rate of decay? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000613)

Actually according to http://arxiv.org/abs/0808.3986 [arxiv.org] , it might.

Re:Variable rate of decay? (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#41000611)

It depends. These phenomenon might be peculiar to the isotope in question (chlorine 36), could be insignificant entirely, or could average out over a long period of time to the established rate in any case. Decay rates are not entirely constant in every particle, either: ionization can affect the decay rate significantly. I think we'll have to wait until further research to really know for sure the complete implications of this discovery, or indeed if it is even true.

Re:Variable rate of decay? (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41000671)

Ill pretend this theory isn't completely nuts and say that it wouldn't have a huge effect. The observed change is tiny. Far below the margin of error.

Re:Variable rate of decay? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000703)

C14 is already known to vary in our atmosphere due to the variation of cosmic rays from our trip around the Milky Way. So there already exists calibrations from other dating sources to correct for this (and probably other) sources of error.

Also, the rate of change must simply be very small, otherwise we've have noticed it long ago.

Re:Variable rate of decay? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41000839)

If the rate of radioactive decay can vary, how would this affect things like carbon 14 dating? Very interesting.

The article is behind a paywall which really sucks for scientific progress. Naughty scientists, naughty, naughty. Stuck in the pre internet 80s are we?

Anyway its a "percent or so" fluctuation with a power peak matching the decade or so long solar cycle. So if it applies to carbon exactly like it measured in chlorine (darn unlikely) you'll never be able to carbon date more accurately than, say 1% of the decade or so solar cycle or in other words about a month, at least on first principles. Its like there's an inherent, measurable source of time-jitter in the decay rate signal of about a month. So its nonsense to specify a carbon date beyond a single decimal point of years or there's only one digit of sig figs or however you wanna say it. By first principles I mean given one object and a miracle amazing decay sensor and perfect mass balance and an infinite amount of time to take measurements. By comparing something with an age known more accurately than a month from "about" the same era, you COULD (but in practice probably can't) null the variations that hit both objects to get a measurement more accurate than a month.

Another huge problem is the experiments were done on an obscure chlorine isotope. Since there seems to be no known mechanism in this case, but other known mechanisms that change decay rate are extremely specific to individual isotopes, there seems reason to guess there would be no similar variation in carbon. That combined with the extreme popularity of carbon dating compared to Fing around with radioactive chlorine, it seems very likely the effect is smaller or doesn't exist at all in carbon. "Seems unlikely" is not exactly an iron clad disproof.

Re:Variable rate of decay? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000915)

Depends on a number of things, such as the mode of decay (variations in one mode may not affect another, and C-14 may depend on different modes). It also depends on the magnitude of the variation. Here we are talking about extremely small variations, so if you're thinking "this means dates could be off by 50%", no, not plausible. This is a small effect, on the order of +-5%. That's assuming these measurements can be taken at face value. I doubt it. Something interesting may be going on, but variations of +-5% over geological scales would probably be obvious. Typical radiometric methods (of which C-14 is only one, and only applies to the last 100000 years or so) often achieve +-1% measurement uncertainties. If decay rates were regularly varying like this or worse over geological scales, it would be noticed. Furthermore, because these seem to be seasonal and cyclic variations, the exact variations they are observing here would get averaged out over geological time even if they were happening.

In actuality, decay rate variations are already well established for the electron capture mode of decay [wikipedia.org] . But A) the variations are very small (usually fractions of a %) at astronomical pressures and other conditions that don't apply to typical geological samples (e.g., if atoms are ionized, there are few electrons around to *be* captured); B) it kind of makes sense that extremely high pressures, molecular bonds, and ionization might affect the electron cloud orbiting around the nucleus, which is relevant to *this* mode of decay -- i.e. there's a plausible reason to expect variation; and C) the electron capture decay rate variations don't affect dating methods that don't involve electron capture decay modes, of which there are several. If they amounted to anything significant for one mode versus another for real geological samples, you'd see big and systematic discrepancies between multiple methods using different isotopic systems and decay modes.

The fact that they're measuring decay events from a volume of gas seeping out of a radioactive sample (phosphate rock in the bottom of a steel tank sitting in a shed outdoors), rather than a solid sample of a single pure/known isotope, makes me worry about some kind of data collection affect having nothing to do with decay rates. Gasses are compressible, can change volume, etc. They've tried to adjust for pressure, temperature, and other variations, and they note that they don't correlate with the signals they are seeing, but I'm still suspicious. I'm surprised they didn't consider humidity, and don't provide any plots for that environmental factor. It might affect the way the radon diffuses out of the phosphate sample. Anyway, it's interesting, but I don't think other possibilities have been eliminated thoroughly enough. Maybe all that they are measuring is variations in *radon*output* from the phosphate sample, and not decay rates *of* radon (technically they're detecting parts of the decay chain of radon, rather than radon directly). It would be interesting to try a similar experiment but with a solid sample, a simpler isotopic system, and far below the ground surface, where the environment is a lot more stable (e.g., in a mine).

Re:Variable rate of decay? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 2 years ago | (#41001127)

If the rate of solar flaring has not changed significantly over the last 60,000 years* or so then it doesn't have much effect.

*60,000 years being the approximate oldest useful dating from carbon 14.

Dating methods (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41000515)

I always thought these were fairly constant, does this theory mess up any of our current Radiometric dating (and other similar) methods?
Sure a few solar flares might not do much effect, but when we are talking hundreds of millions of years ago the sun might of been in a totally different state that caused different decays over long periods of time, than we previously thought.

Re:Dating methods (1)

lannocc (568669) | about 2 years ago | (#41000647)

does this theory mess up any of our current Radiometric dating (and other similar) methods?

I was wondering the same thing. Another reason for the Creationists to argue that the carbon-dating is all wrong and the Earth is young.

Re:Dating methods (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41000735)

We have many different radiometric forms of dating that all agree well.

It would require a perverse alteration to them all to keep agreeing with each other after all this time.

Thats why we are so confident in the age of the earth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Earth [wikipedia.org]

Re:Dating methods (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41000995)

Keyword: Radiometric.
If some external force changes the rate of decay of all radioactive material, like this summery says, then they all very well might agree and still be off.

Re:Dating methods (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41000805)

I always thought these were fairly constant, does this theory mess up any of our current Radiometric dating (and other similar) methods?

Well, No: Considering the predictability is consistently of random accuracy in any form of dating, be it Radiometric, Electronic, Speed, Blind, or chance reliant encounters. They might have a statistically significant effect on dating if the solar flares dramatically affect hormone or pheromone production.

In my experience the Moon is a much better indicator of whether dating will be "successful"...

Re:Dating methods (1)

sgunhouse (1050564) | about 2 years ago | (#41000857)

Depends on if you assume solar activity has been relatively consistent over time. If solar activity has decreased or increased substantially over time, then radioactive dating could be wrong. If solar activity has been relatively stable over the last million years, then dates within that period are probably pretty good. Even a mathematician can see that.

wasn't this debunked? (2)

tantrum (261762) | about 2 years ago | (#41000623)

I recall reading about this here on slashdot several years ago (guessing '96), and thought that it was disproved not lang after. I might be wrong though

Re:wasn't this debunked? (1)

tantrum (261762) | about 2 years ago | (#41000685)

I recall reading about this here on slashdot several years ago (guessing '96), and thought that it was disproved not lang after. I might be wrong though

:%s/96/06/gc

Re:wasn't this debunked? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000879)

> :%s/96/06/gc

Bah. You don't need to touch the whole file. You don't need to replace the 6 with a 6. There's no case to be concerned with, and there's no point to confirm a single change.

0f9r0. Or just f9r0 if your cursor is before the 9, or F9r0 if it's behind it. Don't over complicate things. And if you're anal enough to post a regex invocation specific to an application, post the fastest way to make the change instead.

Way to early to make assumptions (1)

reginaldo (1412879) | about 2 years ago | (#41000633)

So has there been any research done outside of this JH Jenkins guy and his crew at Purdue? Has this hypothesis been tested and proven elsewhere in this world? I can't find any other publishers: http://tinyurl.com/d4bjfbx [tinyurl.com] (A link to a search of published papers using "Solar Radioactive Decay" as the search criteria. All on-topic papers come from JH Jenkins and crew)

Re:Way to early to make assumptions (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41000923)

So has there been any research done outside of this JH Jenkins guy and his crew at Purdue? Has this hypothesis been tested and proven elsewhere in this world? I can't find any other publishers...

http://arxiv.org/abs/0810.3265 [arxiv.org]

(no this isn't an arxiv equivalent of a rickroll on my honor as a 5 digit /. uid. However, if someone can find the arxiv equivalent of a rickroll I'll be indebted to them.)

Aside from this individual example, obviously see the references at the end of the paper.

Re:Way to early to make assumptions (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41000997)

oh and another good one.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.7015 [arxiv.org]

Once again, its a cool paper all by itself, and slightly (only slightly) off your topic, but the real gold mine, for you, will probably be the reference list at the end of the paper.

Its an interesting topic because its fun to think of how to build the experimental apparatus, possible sources of error and how to work around... Its almost as much fun as that "anomalous gravitational force" that ended up not existing. I'm just barely not old enough to have lived thru the polywater era which probably would have been equally entertaining.

Makes sense. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000635)

Makes total sense. The flare will appear AFTER a period of high activity, because photons and matter are damn slow (in a high density medium such as the Sun, neutrinos will be orders of magnitude faster. Note that photons under those circunstances will be significantly slowed). During that period, we will have more antineutrinos. Those extra antineutrinos may collide with neutrons (turning into electrons, and turning the neutrons into protons), or just transfer energy to protons/neutrons/electrons. This extra energy is released as a gamma.

Re:Makes sense. (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41000765)

There is almost no cross section for a neutrino (or antineutrino) and a neutron to interact. For that matter any particle.

They only interact via the weak force which is orders of magnitude smaller than the electromagnetic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weak_interaction [wikipedia.org]

This is like (-1, Troll)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41000649)

saying we can get anti gravity devices to work because it was on star trek.

The scientific plausibility of nuclear decay to vary because of neutrinos is one level below insane.

The standard model predicts nuclear decay with extreme precision, so until someone comes up with a repeatable compelling theory and or experiment that is consistent with the SM and this sort of effect on decay I wouldn't give this much thought.

Re:This is like (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000811)

Well, let's see. Both radioactive decay and neutrinos interact through the weak nuclear force, so to suggest that the scientific plausibility is "insane" is, well...

Re:This is like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41000825)

Agreed. It seems more likely that neutrinos are affecting the measuring equipment rather than radioactivity!

Re:This is like (5, Insightful)

Velex (120469) | about 2 years ago | (#41000885)

Holy cow. Only on Slashdot can some internet tough guy say "I don't care what people who are actually studying this think. I know better because I can throw words like 'neutrino' and 'plausibility' around." And then get modded up to +5 insightful.

I'm not even going to waste a mod point making this a +4 instead. What's the point? Good grief.

Re:This is like (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41001073)

You make it sound like my opinion. Not the weight of scientific opinion.

The study of the natural world isn't decided by the best yo-mamma joke.

Re:This is like (3, Insightful)

kav2k (1545689) | about 2 years ago | (#41000903)

If everyone has that mindset to avoid testing "batshit crazy" theories, we will not produce new ones. Physics is not an area where truth is final..

You want repeatable experiments. Those guys want to try them - and you're calling that insane. Maybe that will lead to discovery of yet another, different explanation and mechanism that was attributable to neutrinos only on first estimation.

A good definition of "scientific" is "refutable". This one certainly qualifies. So let them try and not drown them in skepticism right away.

Re:This is like (2)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | about 2 years ago | (#41000905)

saying we can get anti gravity devices to work because it was on star trek.

The scientific plausibility of nuclear decay to vary because of neutrinos is one level below insane.

The standard model predicts nuclear decay with extreme precision, so until someone comes up with a repeatable compelling theory and or experiment that is consistent with the SM and this sort of effect on decay I wouldn't give this much thought.

You've got that backwards. If we get observations that prove nuclear decay is variable then SM must perforce be revised or thrown out the window entirely.

Re:This is like (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41001017)

You are right. But I think you are ignoring the "prove" part. There is no proof. There is some studies but many contradicting studies.

If you want to overturn perhaps the successful theory that exists with poorly reproducible data, good luck. I agree it cant be dismissed without investigation but surely it is the theory that needs to do the pushing.

I call shenanigans (1, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#41000717)

This has to be either a systematic or a fluke. The only thing that could conceivably have an influence on nuclear decay rates is the neutrino flux, which would not show the diurnal variations that they claim, and which furthermore would be completely uncorrelated with solar flares, since neutrinos propagate at the speed of light from the solar core through the envelope, while thermal effects take millenia [wikipedia.org] to propagate.

The paper on the effect is in a peer-reviewed journal, and the authors do not appear to be crackpots, but I notice that the abstract at least does not quote a confidence level for the result. And using an effect this speculative to base a solar weather prediction technology on, however, is pure idiocy.

I call politics (5, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 2 years ago | (#41000853)

This has to be either a systematic or a fluke. The only thing that could conceivably have an influence on nuclear decay rates is...

Okay, wait.

This guy has evidence which your model doesn't account for. You're saying that the evidence can't be right because it isn't accounted for by your model?

That's not science, that's politics.

If he's got evidence, either counter with your own evidence or show that his evidence is fabricated.

Try actually being a scientist, instead of pretending to act like one.

Re:I call politics (1)

Velex (120469) | about 2 years ago | (#41000949)

Since I can't mod this discussion anymore having made a similar comment myself to another internet tough guy, will somebody please mod the parent up?

You're spot on. It's called science. It works best when somebody turns out to be wrong (or at least not quite correct). Whoever is modding up these internet tough guys needs to read some Sagan or something and get a clue.

Re:I call politics (3, Insightful)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#41001063)

Okay, wait.

This guy has evidence which your model doesn't account for. You're saying that the evidence can't be right because it isn't accounted for by your model?

That's not science, that's politics.

If he's got evidence, either counter with your own evidence or show that his evidence is fabricated.

Try actually being a scientist, instead of pretending to act like one.

I'm saying I am very skeptical of the "evidence" because it makes no fucking sense at all. Anybody can find statistically significant, completely spurious correlations when given a large-enough mass of data. Would you also suggest that I take these guys [princeton.edu] seriously?

I never said that the Purdue people shouldn't publish their result. Their paper simply notes a correlation. They don't claim to know why there is a correlation, and there could be many explanations. That's science. The most likely explanation is that the effect is a systematic. I say this because I know many other well-verified facts about how the world works, and this purported correlation is in conflict with all of these things. That's also science. Uncritically accepting one piece of data and therefore throwing out a century of scientific knowledge is not being a scientist. It's being a nutjob.

Re:I call politics (3, Informative)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41001163)

There are many nonsupporting papers for this.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1006.5071 [arxiv.org] (there are many more but you can find yourself if you are interested)

If it was replicated easily then it would be a cause for a rethink but its not. It would also require new physics to explain and that by itself requires the strongest rigor before being accepted.

Asimov got there first? (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | about 2 years ago | (#41000721)

Did someone take his research into Thimotimoline seriously? :D

Re:Asimov got there first? (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#41001019)

No, but judging by how often his yet-to-be-published article has been cited, they will.

It's about time (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 2 years ago | (#41000733)

I've been following this topic for a couple of years. Variation of radioactive decay has been noticed and reported by Jere Jenkins et al before.

In all cases, the results have been panned by the physics community as unlikely, not fitting with the current model, or failing to match with other measurements. The overall conclusion in each of these papers has been: "it can't be correct because it doesn't fit within our model".

The theory was disproved by analysis, not disproved by abundance of data.

Measuring radioactive decay is simple, and it would have taken an undergrad about a week to set up a logging system sensitive enough to gather evidence which would corroborate or disprove the theory.

No one thought to do this, Jere and friends were dismissed as cranks and crackpots.

I'm glad to see this finally reach the light of day. None of the criticisms of his work was based on evidence, and dismissing evidence is not real science.

Re:It's about time (3, Insightful)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41000845)

Non replicable data also not really science.

There is no lack of people who would look into this, and to be sure many top people have. There have been many people coming forward since to show data that doesn't exhibit this pattern. Thats a huge problem.

The burden of proof is on the claimant and its far from proven.

It's about science (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 2 years ago | (#41001007)

There is no lack of people who would look into this, and to be sure many top people have...

And yet, not one of the people who looked into it actually took the time to collect evidence.

(Can you post a link to a paper which disproves this based on collected data?)

Interesting how calling a data set "non replicable" is seen as good science, while replicating the data (which is what the current paper purports to do) is "not really good science".

Re:It's about time (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41001001)

You haven't been following it very well then. There are other datasets that don't show the variation Jenkins et al see. Plus their habit of writing papers that don't include any statistics OR error bars means their hypothesis (it's definitely not a theory - they don't offer any explanatory or predictive ability at all) is poorly supported in the first place.

The overall conclusion is "extraordinary claims, particularly those in opposition to both theory AND many other experiments, require extraordinary evidence. Or at least ordinary evidence."

Not to mention that reliably detecting seasonal variation requires several years.

Re:It's about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41001053)

Not at all simple to do. Measurement of radioactive decay is a very difficult and high precision experiment involving highly purified radioactive isotopes, extremely sensitive and tetchy detector systems that must be appropriate for the type of radioactive decay that you wish to measure), and highly sensitive, low noise, and fast detection electronics coupled to whatever detectors you happen to be using. For example to measure gamma rays of a certain energy, sodium iodide scintillation crystals coupled with photomultiplier tubes will work well- but have numerous experimental details like geometric angle, loss in scintillator, conversion ratio, coupling to PMT, sensitivity to water vapor, vulnerability to "dead time" when radioactive events occur too close to one another... These are just a few of the challenges involved with sodium iodide detector systems, which only covers a small subset of radioactive events you may wish to detect -with alpha and low energy beta particles, the foil that protects the NaI from water will prevent detection by absorbing the particles. As an example of the chemistry challenges: How pure is your sample? How will you separate one isotope from another that weighs 1 neutron more or less? And gosh, isn't it decaying as you do your purification?

With all of these problems, its no wonder that the accuracy of radioactive decay rate measurements is pretty crappy, such that textbooks will disagree after just a few significant digits.
- AW

In other news... (3, Funny)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#41000749)

Researchers at Purdue are busy creating early-warning earthquake detectors based around when their dogs all start acting weird.

Variable decay rates == broken radioactive carbon? (1)

THE_WELL_HUNG_OYSTER (2473494) | about 2 years ago | (#41000917)

If decay rates are variable, how does this affect radioactive carbon dating methods? Are all dates derived from this method now suspect?
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