A long time ago, during those first classes of nuclear physics in middle school, where I leaned about atoms and what nuclear instability means, a question popped into my mind: what if the cause of nuclear instability is outside of the atomic nuclei?
At the time, asking such questions in school meant questioning the professor’s authority and knowledge, and it was not very welcomed, or at least not a very smart thing to do, as, by asking too many questions, I was also at risk of being labeled a smarty-pants/nerd by my classmates. So, I never asked that question, and it was temporarily forgotten. However, it continued popping up from time to time during my life.
Later on, at the end of High School, I was reading articles about Einstein and Tesla, and how they both had very different views about the nature of energy and matter. Sadly, Tesla never published his theories; if he did, even if wrong, we could at least question his findings. So, Einstein won the theoretical war.
All the insights one could get about Tesla’s ideas come from those scarce interviews he gave during his life, and I have found the following:
“Our future motive power” by Nikola Tesla (Nov. 8, 1931) *1
“The sun emits, however, a peculiar radiation of great energy which I discovered in 1899. Two years previous I had been engaged in an investigation of radio-activity which led me to the conclusion that the phenomena observed were not due to molecular forces residing in the substances themselves, but were caused by a cosmic ray of extraordinary penetrativeness. That it emanated from the sun was an obvious inference, for although many heavenly bodies are undoubtedly possessed of a similar property, the total radiation which the earth receives from all the suns and stars of the universe is only a little more than one-quarter of one percent of that it gets from our luminary. Hence, to look for the cosmic ray elsewhere is much like chercher le midi dans les environs de quatorze heures (Making a mountain out of a mole hill). My theory was strikingly confirmed when I found that the sun does, indeed, emit a ray marvelous in the inconceivable minuteness of its particles and transcending speed of their motion, vastly exceeding that of light. This ray, by impinging against the cosmic dust generates a secondary radiation, relatively very feeble but fairly penetrative, the intensity of which is, of course, almost the same in all directions.
Perhaps, sometime in the future when our means of investigation will be immeasurably improved, we may find ways of capturing this force and utilizing it for the attainment of results beyond our present imagining.”
“The eternal source of energy of the universe, origin and intensity of cosmic rays” by Nikola Tesla (Oct. 13, 1932) *2
This truth was so manifest to me that I expressed it in the following axiom: "There is no energy in matter except that absorbed from the medium."
When radio-active rays were discovered their investigators believed them to be due to liberation of atomic energy in the form of waves. This being impossible in the light of the preceding I concluded that they were produced by some external disturbance and composed of electrified particles. My theory was not seriously taken although it appeared simple and plausible. Suppose that bullets are fired against a wall. Where a missile strikes the material is crushed and spatters in all directions radial from the place of impact. In this example it is perfectly clear that the energy of the flying pieces can only be derived from that of the bullets. But in manifestation of radio-activity no such proof could be advanced and it was, therefore, of the first importance to demonstrate experimentally the existence of this miraculous disturbance in the medium. I was rewarded in these efforts with quick success largely because of the efficient method I adopted which consisted in deriving from a great mass of air, ionized by the disturbance, a current, storing its energy in a condenser and discharging the same through an indicating device. This plan did away with the limitations and incertitude of the electroscope first employed and was described by me in articles and patents from 1900 to 1905. It was logical to expect, judging from the behavior of known radiations, that the chief source of the new rays would be the Sun, but this supposition was contradicted by observations and theoretical considerations which disclosed some surprising facts in this connection.
In fact, Nikola Tesla was the one who first discovered the dangers of radioactivity in 1896, when he tested x-rays on his own fingers. He mistakenly associated his injuries with the ozone layer, but his findings were rectified by Joseph Muller in 1927, who showed the genetic effects of radiation.
We know now that Nuclear Instability *3 happens via Radioactive decay caused because a nuclei is unstable, as nuclear forces inside of the nuclei are not balanced. During decay, it emits alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays to become more stable.
What Tesla claimed is that nuclear instability does not originate from the nuclei but from outside forces influencing the nuclei. Also, both of his articles gave insights about some very penetrative ray, originating from the Sun, that can be the cause of this. Tesla’s articles do not give enough hints to allow us to understand what kind of ray he found — was it just cosmic rays, or maybe something else?
Although the reference to the German team’s discovery is more inclined toward cosmic rays, long time ago when I was reading these articles, scientists still struggled to detect neutrinos from the Sun, as neutrino detectors were not sensitive enough. So, in my mind, somehow, I related those two stories.
Neutrinos could pass through the entire planet like it did not exist, without a single collision, so it was very difficult to detect them. In order to detect neutrinos, the Japanese built a Super-Kamiokande *4 detector that is located 1,000m underground, consisting of a cylindrical, stainless steel tank that is 41.4m tall and 39.3m in diameter, holding 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water. In the IceCube Neutrino Observatory*5, they use ultra-clear ice on the South Pole to do the same job of detecting neutrinos.
Every second, about 65 billion neutrinos are passing through just one square centimeter of the area of Earth. That is a lot of neutrinos, but they rarely interact with any matter, and, in those rare events when they do, they will leave a trail of blue light also known as Cherenkov radiation*6.
Those detectors are large, but what if Tesla’s assumption about the reason for radioactive decay was partly right, and what if cosmic rays and neutrinos have impacts on nuclear decay?
Just imagine if those huge detectors could be sized down to maybe a small fridge, instead of hundreds of meters, like they are now.
Relatively recent articles published by professor Peter Sturrock, from Stanford and Purdue Universities, flared up my intuitive hunch even further. His team discovered that certain isotopes, like silicon-32 and radium-226, seemed to show a small seasonal variation, and they also noticed that the decay rate of manganese-54 dropped slightly during solar flares. *7
So, here is my idea!
Is it possible to make a detector that would definitively prove the theory that some type of solar activity has an impact on radioactive decay?
Imagine creating a sandwich out of a plate of radioactive material, with a nuclear particle detector on top and then layer of lead plating over all of that. Then, it would be necessary to repeat the entire alignment several times.
The device will need to point in the direction of the Sun during the day and night, so that rays coming from the Sun would always fall at 90 degrees to the surface of the radioactive material.
As neutrinos are so penetrative, they would go through all layers of the device, and, as single detectors are put over each layer, by comparing the data, it could be shown that decay emissions are not random, but, instead, it could be traced along the axis of the ray. Check the image below.
For larger image : [Right Click] > [View Image]
Crucial thing for this type of detector would be to increase number of “detecting layers” (Radioactive layer + Detector + Lead). Lead between each detector serves as the blockage for other particles Alpha, Beta, Gama that also may cause/initiate nuclear decay.
Highly penetrative rays would not be detected directly, instead the same as in case of Cherenkov radiation they could be traced by radioactive decay events of the radioactive plate. It is necessary for a detector to catch all 2D (two dimensional) events, from the above radioactive layer.
Detectors would need to be precisly sync by time. If events are happening at the same time, it would be possible to correlate data in order to prove that Sun high energetic particles and rays have impact on the nuclear decay.
So, what can we expect? Ideally there will be number of consequent events: along the straight line of ray passage, which would mean that the ray is so energetic that interaction does not have impact on its trajectory; or maybe because of interaction, neutrinos would lose part of their energy and they will bend the same way light would behave passing trough lens – this would show in data as an arc or curve; or maybe there will be zig-zag behavior as each time neutrino hits something it will go in other way.
A particularly difficult part is that out of multiple layers neutrinos would hit only one detector and that would be terrible, as we would not have data to correlate and we would need to return to the starting point.
So in order to increase our chances we would need to increase number of detecting layers and also to put them on opposite side of the planet. Ideally have them spining in satelites around the planet, and then try to correlating data from multiple of such devices.
If this assumption is true, what would that mean?
First, we would need to adjust our understanding of the universe, so it would accompany all these new findings.
Most importantly, this would mean a new source of energy we could use anywhere in the universe, as neutrinos are quite abundant and quite energetic, as well. Additionally, we could harness nuclear energy in a unique way, and there wouldn’t be any need to build huge, dangerous power plants.
In the future, perhaps, we could find a way to use high-voltage and high-pressure plasma, instead of nuclear isotopes, in order to capture the energy of neutrinos.
And maybe we would need to reconsider those dating techniques we use, in order to determine historical events, but that does not need to be a definite case, as it could be just a marginal difference, because, even if decay depends on the sun’s activity, the Sun has a well-defined nature of its activity, so nothing would really change.
This question has not stopped bothering me over time, and, as I am getting older, maybe I will never have the resources to try these experiments on my own. Still, part of me secretly hopes that someone, somewhere will read these lines and maybe try it, so that, one day, I will find out whether my personal hunch was right or wrong...
Edit 2016 12 21 21:12
Just after 10 hours I have realised something, this can be tested in the lab condition. We have ability to produce neutrinos. Therefore, only thing we need is to put "decay detector" on the path between "neutrino generator" and "neutrino detector".
In that way uncertainty of waiting for the Sun would be largely diminished.
Notes & References:
1. “Our future motive power” by Nikola Tesla (Nov. 8, 1931)http://www.tfcbooks.com/tesla/1931-12-00.htm
2. “The eternal source of energy of the universe, origin and intensity of cosmic rays” by Nikola Tesla (Oct. 13, 1932)http://www.tfcbooks.com/tesla/1932-10-13.htm
3. Nuclear Stability - Concepthttps://www.brightstorm.com/science/chemistry/nuclear-chemistry/nuclear-stability/
4. Super-Kamiokande Detectorhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super-Kamiokande
5. IceCube Neutrino Observatoryhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IceCube_Neutrino_Observatory
6. Cherenkov radiationhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherenkov_radiation
7. The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elementshttp://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/august/sun-082310.html
8. Changing decay rateshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_decay#Changing_decay_rates