If decay rates really are affected by solar flares before the flares even occur, that could provide the first truly reliable early warning system for flares.
Considering severe solar flares can wreak havoc on electrical grids and even kill astronauts who aren’t properly protected, that would be a huge benefit for humanity. The seasonal fluctuations suggested the Sun could be involved somehow, and the solar flare connection confirmed it.
The story begins, in a sense, in classrooms around the world, where students are taught that the rate of decay of a specific radioactive material is a constant.
This concept is relied upon, for example, when anthropologists use carbon-14 to date ancient artifacts and when doctors determine the proper dose of radioactivity to treat a cancer patient.
As Peter Sturrock explains: “It’s an effect that no one yet understands. [If it’s not neutrinos,] it would have to be something we don’t know about, an unknown particle that is also emitted by the sun and has this effect, and that would be even more remarkable.” If these new discoveries hold up, then we’ve discovered that the sun changes rates radioactive decay, that we can predict solar flares before they happen, that the sun’s core rotates slower than its surface, and maybe even that an entirely unknown particle exists and is affecting our world in a tangible way.
Not a bad set of results for what was supposed to be a simple search for some random numbers. When researchers found an unusual linkage between solar flares and the inner life of radioactive elements on Earth, it touched off a scientific detective investigation that could end up protecting the lives of space-walking astronauts and maybe rewriting some of the assumptions of physics.
A team at Purdue University needed to generate a string of random numbers, a surprisingly tricky task that is complicated by the fact that whatever method you use to generate the numbers will have some influence on them.And yet one mystery remains – how are the neutrinos managing to interact with the radioactive particles in this way?It doesn’t fit with the known behavior of neutrinos, and it opens up the very real possibility that some previously unknown subatomic particle is actually behind this bizarre effect. It’s a challenge for the physicists and a challenge for the solar people too.The Sun is changing the rate of radioactive decay, and breaking the rules of chemistry.These changes at the nuclear level can have profound implications for our cells and DNA resulting in mutations of higher frequency structures within molecules of all life and minerals upon Earth.