Oh Dear. After blowing it off as not important for over 1/4 Century, non-Russian scientists have finally admitted that lightning can cause free neutrons (and all the hand waving explanations don’t explain how…)
This one can go in a lot of directions. The Electric Universe folks ought to have a field day with it (all sorts of things can start happening when you have free neutrons wandering around looking for a home). Will there be some kind of neutron conversion to ‘other stuff’? Maybe some into energy?
Then there is that niggling little question about the sun. If lighting on Earth can kick loose neutrons, what about the much stronger forces on the Sun? Might there not be a “Neutron Rain” on the Sun? Oh dear… What happens when your ‘gas ball’ has loads of magnetism and electric discharge and a constant shower of neutrons accumulating? (We have protons in the solar wind, so might they be the ‘left overs’ accelerated away by those magnetic fields, leaving behind a growing ocean of neutrons?)
Now, for my home lab, can I just set up a big Tesla Coil and get a nice free neutron source? Could I ‘drizzle’ them over depleted Uranium and get something more interesting? What happens when they hit a metal lattice loaded with protons? Might a strong electric discharge into a hydrogen / deuterium doped metal lattice knock loose a neutron or two, to drift into that metal and make a bit of fusion energy?
Oh dear, oh dear… I think I hear the sound of frozen paradigms thawing or even breaking…
Lightning strikes produce free neutrons, and we’re not sure how
By Chris Lee
For the last 30 years there has been a very small controversy rumbling in the hallowed halls of physics. Way back in 1985, scientists from the then-USSR noted that whenever a thunder storm passed over their neutron detector, they observed an increased flux of neutrons. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much in the way of monitoring equipment to really nail down much beyond the initial observation.
Since then, scientists have put forward a couple of potential explanations for the observed flux. One was that the high fields generated during lightning strikes was modifying the trajectories of muons from cosmic ray showers. In short: these are cosmic rays, and this is not interesting. The second was that the gamma rays emitted during the lightning strike generated neutrons, a photonuclear event. But new measurements show that neither of these explanations can explain the data.
The (now) Russian scientists have designed an entirely new experiment that significantly improves their previous results. They installed three neutron detectors that were sensitive to low energy neutrons: one above ground, one partially shielded in a building, and a third underground with heavier shielding. Sitting next to the underground detector was a more traditional neutron detector that is sensitive to high energy neutrons. Finally, the electrical activity of incoming storms was monitored using a variety of instruments, allowing for better correlation between the neutron measurements and the electrical activity of any passing storms.
The new detectors also allowed the researchers to calculate the neutron flux from the storm activity. In the previous experiments, it had been assumed that each detection event corresponded to a single neutron. In a surprising turn up, the new data show that up to 5000 neutrons per cubic meter are produced every second by lightning strikes.
The article goes on to say it’s nothing very dramatic. I don’t think so. It may not have any practical impact right now, but it has some far reaching implications. You just have to get your mind out of the rain to see them…