Thursday, July 28, 2011

Proton Panic?

Protons!   They are devious.  In 1980 with $2 million from the Department of Energy, Dr. Frederick Reines headed an experiment in which a 70-foot-high hole was dug at the bottom of a 2,000 foot salt mine shaft near Lake Erie.  This was 2,000 feet up and down, not across, mind you.   The hole was filled with 10,000 tons of pure water.  The water was surrounded by 2,000 photoelectric cells.  If a proton decayed it would produce a little light which the cells would record.  Nifty.  But why, you ask?   They wanted proof that protons decay.  The supposition being that if protons decay, everything decays.   That's right, The End of the World as We Know It would be supported by scientific fact.   Yesiree.   Bob.  Unfortunately no proton obligingly decayed in this experiment, or, as far as we know, ever.  Protons!   Have they no shame?   For $2 million you'd think one of them would have the decency to croak.

Source:  Des Moines Register 05/01/1980 p. 10A

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