The TOF Spot

A Flare for Radioactive Decay

It seems as if the rate of radioactive decay, long thought to be constant, is not so much.  It seems to fluctuate with solar activity.  In particular, it may provide what economists call a leading indicator for solar flares, to the benefit of satellite communications and astronaut safety. 

The new detection technique is based on a hypothesis that radioactive decay rates are influenced by solar activity, possibly streams of subatomic particles called solar neutrinos. This influence can wax and wane due to seasonal changes in the Earth’s distance from the sun and also during solar flares, according to the hypothesis, which is supported with data published in a dozen research papers since it was proposed in 2006, said Ephraim Fischbach, a Purdue University professor of physics.

via The TOF Spot.



3 thoughts on “The TOF Spot”

  1. Interesting. Don’t we use atomic clocks to define a baseline for time? This seems like it could have all sorts of ramifications.

    1. My husband’s reaction was to blink and say “So, if the sun was putting out more of those thins in the past– our dating tests are all falsely old?”

      1. Yes. Or rather, if we don’t understand the variation in it, we’ve got to go back in, take everything we’ve measured using radioisotope dating, and up the error bars. Also seems to imply a bunch of questions about how nuclear reactions work.

        Seems an obvious possibility now that I think about it, but lots of blind spots are that way.

        I’m not full of envy for the sorts who have to get the physics figured out again.

        Getting deeper into one of my areas of interest, I wonder how dependent on isotope dating the data is that they are supposedly putting into some of these climate models.

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