Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby charleswenzel » Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:14 am

It looks like I'm getting about 350 pA from the chamber. That would mean that I need a variation on the order of 100 fA to cause that sine wave. I don't even get 50 fA, total, due to background radiation from my huge cookie tin chamber, so I can't imagine the little one giving more than one or two fA. I have tried to see background with these little chambers and it's just too tiny, even with a much larger resistor (currently using 10 gigohm). I like your straightforward explanation, however, so I'm going to look a little closer.
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:35 pm

Right -- your setup uses so much source strength that any background should be real minimal. You can do this because an ion chamber doesn't have things like dead time (that I know of).
Wouldn't hurt to check one without a source, though. A cosmic can really dump some energy into things, particularly if a shower from the primary hitting an air atom, or something in the house roof. I can see that here with scint counters that can time-resolve the individual parts of a shower if it's up in the air far enough, as the products take different lengths of transit time to my devices. When I see coincidence from two that are across the room from each other, that's pretty much got to be what is happening. Now, this is with very fast phototubes and a fast scintillator (plastic) that together will resolve around 5 ns. A geiger tube will just count, or not count, once, on things like that unless the shower was produced really far away (out in space or something) as the time-spread of most showers is well inside the response time of a tube. The ion chamber, by it's nature, should have those issues at all at any reasonable rate -- in a real extreme, I guess you can't ionize the same gas twice, but that's not real likely!

Unless -- and this may not pass some giggle test -- the energy dumped into a source atom(s) is enough to make it decay. For example, it's known you can fission uranium with hot enough gammas (or anything else hot enough). Since there would be energy gain involved here, that might be enough to cause what you see? This is pretty far out on the skinny part of the tree limb...but who knows?

Cosmics have plenty of energy to create multiple particles in a shower with enough apiece to do things like that - a lot of early high energy research, including discovering the positron and some muons and so one was done with them, since there were no accelerators that good at the time.

Another example of this is Carlos Rubbia's "energy amplifier" where he proposes using an accelerator to burn up nuclear waste. Even with the inefficiency of a big particle accelerator, he predicts net energy gain. Could something like that be happening here? Not a clue, but it should be possible to find out.

A little digging might turn up some type of isotope that doesn't self-decay, but will fairly easily when hit hard enough. Bismuth might do it for example (I'll have to get out the books). I know that if I put a couple inches of lead over a counter, I get *more* counts when primary cosmics hit it from showers produced in the lead --but fewer from air-showers (because they have low enough energy for the lead to stop them), so that effect is kinda hard to tease out. Maybe I need to put a scint detector in my "cave" in the back yard and look at the energies of what it sees in there (about 20 feet of rock roof). In this case, the rock itself is a little radioactive -- you can see it on a survey meter, but I'd bet it really cuts down the super high energy cosmics and just shows a U + daughters spectrum -- but a test beats a guess anytime.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby charleswenzel » Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:30 pm

Coming at the calculation from another direction, I get about 200 fA p-p for that diurnal variation. That's way too much, unless your "multiplier" effect is happening. That would be a surprising discovery, too. Alphas really plow the field, so triggering one with a muon or gamma would give gain in an ionization chamber, I suppose. On the other hand, the targets are pretty tiny. With my modified CDV715 chamber, I do see large deflections on the most sensitive scale, and that chamber is only a little bigger. But the gain is much higher, 22,000 times more for voltage. I'm driving a current meter through a resistor, but , suffice it to say, the gain is a lot higher and the big ones only reach about 1/2 of full scale. None of this is very quantitative! But it "feels" about two orders of magnitude too small.

Now there's two interesting issues, the solar flare effect and the diurnal variation, so I might have to go back and do a better job of putting numbers on everything. It might be easier to just make another one (or maybe two) and pull out all the stops on performance. I have these tiny cans that large tube sockets solder right into. The element would fit in the end perfectly, and the pickup could be a little disk a couple of inches away. Even the tiny almond can has significantly more volume than is really necessary. I could drop a small array of those round cans into a larger copper oven. Oh-oh, I'm starting to plan...

It does occur to me that, if the solar flare thing is real, then it wouldn't be surprising to see other noise, modulation signals, and average level from the same basic cause. Putting something as big as the earth in the way might do at least a little something! Just because the effect was reported to pass through the earth doesn't mean it wasn't attenuated. /wishful thinking.
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Mar 06, 2011 3:23 pm

Right. I was being *extremely* speculative there, but after all, a fission that takes .025 ev to trigger makes 200 megavolts in energy -- and those products REALLY plow gas. Now I'll have to go to work myself on this. Yeah, the sources are tiny, but we get X cosmic rays per sq cm/minute and you'd get some hits I'd think. A 1 sq foot spark chamber goes off very frequently on cosmics, after all. Heck, I want one as a table ornament! Take that, Martha Stewart! I'll see if I can put my hands on some of the diurnal data I've got somewhere and post it up here, and maybe some candidate types of atom that might fission with enough energy input and see if we can get any kind of fit to what you're measuring. I have a lot of really old physics books that have a lot of this as back then, it was about the only game in town if you wanted to look at high energy/nuclear reactions. The theory that cosmics are affected by the earth's varying field shape is long held and seems correct. Could be we are seeing more than one thing here. It merely seems reasonable that it wouldn't take much additional energy to push one of these short half life sources over the edge to decay, at least. Fission of normally non-fissionable elements tends to take on the order of 10 megavolts, but even that's not out of the question with cosmics. The result would be transforming some cosmic ray energy that normally doesn't lose much to your chamber gas (mostly just goes out the other side) into products that DO lose all their energy in there.

You'd think that yes, the earth interposed might have at least some effect. Even if it doesn't stop many neutrinos (or whatever) it surely scatters them some. Further, I'd think there are plenty of events in the sun that don't make it to large visible flares, but they are still there and might be doing some of this, assuming the original hypothesis is correct. So if some other people want to get into this game, and use different gear, between us, we might learn more, I'd expect some variability depending on how you do the measuring, myself.

Since I have more geiger tubes than are going to be needed for the standard counter/activation project, maybe I can press some of them into use here just to be doing it a little differently. I have an outbuilding far enough from here that my fusor won't mess up the measurements there. I'll make sure at least one is just measuring background in the bargain, and use one of my really old (but very power efficient) PC's to log them all. Back when I had a software dev business, we got a bunch of PC's made off laptop CPUs -- they draw 8 watts plus whatever the disk and display draws. So that's beneath notice on my solar power system, where a newer PC would not be.

Uh oh, now I'm making plans too!
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby charleswenzel » Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:35 pm

I found an estimate of the expected current in an ionization chamber from cosmic sources in Nuclear Radiation Detection and the author estimates 4.3 x 10-19/cm^3 and up to four times that from terrestrial sources, if no lead shield is used. That would be 0.2 fA and 0.8 fA in my chamber, not to mention a few alphas from the materials in the can, and that seems about right from my experience with larger cans. So, it would have to be your multiplier effect, or something else altogether. The bits of americium are quite tiny, maybe only 0.15 square inch, total. I have that nagging feeling that I'm going to be slapping my forehead any minute when I realize what's causing this.
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:21 pm

Well, be sure to enlighten us if you figure it out! I'm just tossing possibilities out there -- it's gotta come from somewhere, after all. I'm not a big believer in "magic". Perhaps a detector that just looks at cosmics (no source) would be called for just to see any correlation? Even those tiny sources will catch a few, but any multiplier effect would have to be crazy-huge to account for your numbers, eh?
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby charleswenzel » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:37 am

I connected up an identical chamber and unsoldered the wire, using its springiness to push it back against the connection. After it settled and was jumping around a little, I reached in with a plastic tool and carefully pushed the wire away, disconnecting the chamber from the amplifier. The reading was much more stable. That gives a pretty good look at the background level. Even if I take the peak of the wandering from the disconnected reading, I only get 3 fA. I need 50 to explain the wander. And that 50 isn't the total background, but just the variation. Something else is the cause, I'm pretty confident.
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby Doug Coulter » Tue May 24, 2011 6:05 pm

Charles, would some "official" sealed up ion chambers help you? We've managed to collect a few here, and I don't have a need for them, free to a good home, if you pay shipping.

We are also working with some new large area plate aspect ion chambers -- wires in a big flat box with a thin membrane on one side, and have many of those. Most leak some, and all are designed for flowing gas. I'm converting one with a new diaphragm to see if I can get decent performance sealed off with it, for cosmic rays. Since they have very fine tungsten wires (half a mil or so, hard to even see) they can run with gas gain, and I've found that welding gas, 75% Ar, 25% CO2 works real well and gives a nice signal when they get hit with single particles. You might want to try that stuff -- with air these things just stank, even when run right up into corona noise, but with this gas, they make good if not great geiger counters -- at STP.
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby charleswenzel » Tue May 31, 2011 9:03 pm

I've got a fairly stable system running, waiting for the sun to do something. I should be able to see something more convincing, if a big flare ever again occurs. I wonder if I've created a solar flare suppressor.

I have a fairly reliable plot of the ionization chamber online at http://www.techlib.com/science/livedata.htm . It sometimes hangs up when Dropbox stops working, but the data is usually fine, once I restart it. I'm not saving lots of data, but simply looking for a little smoke from the barrel of the gun. If I get a good dip followed by a big flare again, I'll take this more seriously. At this point I'm Doubting Thomas' big brother.
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Re: Solar Flare/ Radioactive Decay Rate Link

Postby Doug Coulter » Tue May 31, 2011 9:17 pm

Negative proof is still better than a guess, Thomas... :D And given that the guy doing it also designs some of the best, most stable gear in our local universe - it's meaningful data.

I never really bought that a change in decay rate (and which type of decay anyway -- there's more than one caused by different forces) was necessarily a solar thing. Too me, if you saw any change at all in decay rate -- well, that alone is super big news, the reason can be left as "an exercise for the student" for the moment -- and there would be a lot of them. Because it would imply something not unlike a gravity wave in some ways -- a wave sweeping through that changed physical constants in some way - a wave of "different laws of physics" or at least different values for those things we regard as constants. Maybe they're only slow or rarely moving variables, not constants, after all. Which would be big enough news by itself.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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