November 25, 2010
I’m sure one of our scientist readers can put this to rest quickly, but here’s the deal. I made a post back in August about this article that was circulating then, concerning observed changes in radioactive decay rates that were definitely not supposed to ever change:
When probing the deepest reaches of the Cosmos or magnifying our understanding of the quantum world, a whole host of mysteries present themselves. This is to be expected when pushing our knowledge of the Universe to the limit.
But what if a well-known — and apparently constant — characteristic of matter starts behaving mysteriously?
This is exactly what has been noticed in recent years; the decay rates of radioactive elements are changing. This is especially mysterious as we are talking about elements with “constant” decay rates — these values aren’t supposed to change. School textbooks teach us this from an early age.
This is the conclusion that researchers from Stanford and Purdue University have arrived at, but the only explanation they have is even weirder than the phenomenon itself: The sun might be emitting a previously unknown particle that is meddling with the decay rates of matter. Or, at the very least, we are seeing some new physics.
Last night I was wondering if the particle explanation might not be right: perhaps what is being measured is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves. We have been trying to detect them in various ways for some time now, but with no success. My thought is that perhaps the decay rates are remaining constant–and spacetime is being stretched by a gravitational wave in a way that we aren’t aware of because our perception remains constant (as it would within time dilation effects–in this case applied to a whole region of space). But–I don’t really have the math to work on or fully understand such things, and I may be just talking like a person who believes he has invented a perpetual motion machine.