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Wed Aug 15, 2018, 03:39 PM

The Origins of the 'OMG Particle'

By Paul Sutter, Astrophysicist | August 14, 2018 07:45am ET

- click for image -


Gamma-ray bursts from distant stars, as shown in this artist's illustration, are one possible source of the
ultra-powerful "OMG particles" that occasionally hit scientists' detectors on Earth.
Credit: NASA/SkyWorks Digital

Right now, as you read this very text, your DNA is getting sliced up by tiny, invisible bullets. The damage-dealers are known as cosmic rays, even though they are absolutely not rays but the name stuck from a historical misunderstanding. Instead, they're particles: electrons and protons, mostly, but occasionally heavier things like helium or even iron nuclei.

These cosmic particles are trouble, because a) they're fast, and so have a lot of kinetic energy to toss around and b) they're electrically charged. This means they can ionize our poor DNA nucleotides, ripping them apart and occasionally leading to uncontrollable replication errors (aka, cancer). ['Superstar' Eta Carinae Acts Like a Ginormous Cosmic-Ray Gun, But Why?]

As if this wasn't bad enough, every once in a while, roughly once per square kilometer per year, a particle comes screaming into our upper atmosphere at truly monstrous speed, knocking against a hapless nitrogen or oxygen molecule and cascading into a shower of lower-energy (but still deadly, of course) secondary particles.

There's only one appropriate response when confronted with a particle of such preposterous potential: "OMG."


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Reply The Origins of the 'OMG Particle' (Original post)
Judi Lynn Aug 2018 OP
lapfog_1 Aug 2018 #1
defacto7 Aug 2018 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Wed Aug 15, 2018, 03:50 PM

1. so, can we harness this energy? Anything dense enough to capture the energy?

how much energy would that be?

And while this may slice up the DNA and cause cancer, could it also cause evolution? The variation in abilities may come from more than random combinations of genetics due to breeding.

I studied Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems in college (John Holland). It's heavy on the math. But it speculates that in the event of rapidly changing environments, the selection of hybrid individuals for survival may occur more frequently and faster than can be explained by slower evolutionary processes...

Holy X-men Batman!

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Wed Aug 15, 2018, 04:15 PM

2. This may be interesting concerning cosmic rays...


They monitor cosmic rays as they affect aircraft. Very interesting site. The cosmic ray section is about 2/3 of the way down the page.

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