Half-life strife: Seasons change in the atom's heart

 作者:祭缒     |      日期:2019-03-14 03:05:00
By Stuart Clark IT WAS one of those evenings. You know the kind: after a draining day at work, all you want to do is relax in front of the television. The last thing you expect to do is make a breakthrough that could change the face of modern physics. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Jere Jenkins on 13 December 2006. After a busy day in the lab, he recalls watching the news in a “semi-catatonic” state. The story was about how astronauts had been outside the International Space Station during a solar storm and had caught a blast of X-rays. Jenkins sat up and took notice. This could be the answer to a puzzle he had stumbled across at work. Results from one of his experiments suggested that the sun was somehow speeding up the radioactive decay of an isotope he was studying – something that was not supposed to happen. The news report gave him an idea about how to test this peculiar finding. If the sun was indeed affecting radioactive half-lives, he wondered, what would happen when a solar storm slammed straight into Earth? He pulled out his laptop, logged into the university server and checked his experiment. What he saw stunned him. The decay rates had dropped during the storm, as if the miasma of solar radiation was shielding the isotope in some way. It was either some sort of cruel coincidence, or another piece of evidence in an increasingly weird puzzle. But that wasn’t all: