Radioactive decay rates and the Sun

On August 23rd, 2010 the Stanford University News published an article entitled “The Strange Case of Solar Flares and Radioactive Elements.” The news report came as a result of two scientific papers both authored by Jere H. Jenkins and Ephraim Fischbach of Purdue University, Indiana, USA. The two papers outlined the data which showed a connection between changing radioactive decay rates and phenomena related to the sun. These two papers, approached similar problems with the data, and used the same mechanism of neutrinos to explain the data, but in the opposite way.

The first paper noted that the rate of radioactive decay dropped significantly some 40 hours before solar flares occurred. It was concluded that solar neutrinos were the agency that produced this result. The second paper noted that there was an annual variation in decay rates. Thus, in Dec/Jan when the earth was near (but not exactly at) its closest position to the sun, decay rates were the fastest. Conversely, around June/July when the earth was close to its furthest position from the sun, decay rates were slowest. Again neutrinos were called upon as the agent producing this result.

This neutrino explanation should be seriously doubted. In the first paper, neutrinos, resulting from processes in the sun’s interior, which subsequently caused the solar flares, caused an early drop in decay rates. In the second paper, when the earth was closest to the sun, and therefore getting an increased flux of neutrinos, the decay rate was observed to be higher. These are two contradictory results. Furthermore, if the comparatively small change in our distance from the sun causes this much change in the decay rates of radioactive elements, then there should have been very significant differences noted from space probes which have gone out towards the more distant planets. The power on these probes was generated by radioactive decay. Any significant variation in the power supply would have been noted from the onboard instrumentation and relayed back to earth. Nothing like this has ever been noted. Therefore, neutrinos do not seem to be the answer. In addition, we can also say that the difference in the earth’s distance from the sun in different parts of its orbit is not the cause either.

A re-examination of the data suggests a different cause, one which is in line with ZPE physics. A clue comes in the fact that the earth was not exactly at its nearest (or furthest) point from the sun when the decay rate was at its maximum (or minimum). The authors of the paper had to do some explaining to overcome this problem. This awkward fact may therefore indicate it is not the distance from the sun which is the key factor, but rather something which is related to the earth’s position in its orbit.

Our solar system is moving through space, at about 12 miles per second (or 45,000 miles per hour), in the direction of Lamda Herculis. This movement is rather like a boat on water.  In the same way that a boat has a bow shock-wave in front of it, so, too, does the sun and solar system on two counts. First, the sun effectively encounters more Zero Point Energy (ZPE) waves and the associated charged virtual particle pairs from this direction than if it had been at rest since it is “running into” them. Thus the ZPE appears stronger in that direction than in the opposite direction. Since a stronger ZPE means slower decay rates, then, when the earth in its orbit is leading the sun in its motion, the decay rates should be slower than when the earth is trailing the sun. Second, there will be a bow shock-wave from the additional ions and plasma particles that the solar system encounters from that direction. These ions and electrons will augment the charged virtual particle pairs that normally comprise the vacuum, and they, too, will make for a more “viscous” or “thicker” vacuum. Therefore, when the earth is leading the sun in its motion, the effectively “denser” medium will slow atomic processes, including radiometric decay.

This model can now be checked. The direction of solar motion is towards Lamda Herculis. When this motion is projected onto the plane in which the earth and other major planets move in the solar system, that direction is approximately in the direction of Scorpio-Sagittarius. In Dec/Jan, the earth is following the solar motion through the galaxy in that general direction. As a consequence, it is shielded from the bow wave shock, and the ZPE strength is at a minimum. This means that decay rates will be at a maximum.  Alternatively, in June/July, the earth is leading the sun in its motion through the galaxy and is immersed in a “denser” medium. This retards the radioactive decay rates as outlined elsewhere in my work. Therefore, theory and experimental data are in agreement.

As far as the solar flares are concerned, the fact that they occur up to 40 hours after the drop in radioactive decay rates measured on earth, suggests that the effect does not come from the Sun itself. It has been noticed that when a comet comes near the sun, then a solar flare will often occur. This is explained on the plasma physics model of the solar system by the fact that the further we go out in the solar system, the higher the negative potential compared with the sun. It is for this reason that the stream of positively charged particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, accelerates away from the sun and gathers speed as it proceeds out towards the outer planets.

Therefore, when a comet comes near the sun from the outer solar system, it will often be at a strong negative potential compared with the sun. The result is an electrical interaction with the sun which causes a solar flare. Similarly solar flares will occur when a stream of negatively charged particles (electrons) from the interstellar medium approaches the sun. Several such streams have been noted. On the occasions when a major flux of such particles sweeps through the solar system, it passes the earth before it reaches the sun. This increase in charged particle density is equivalent to locally increasing the number of charged virtual particle pairs. This increase in the charged particle density is effectively the same as an increase in the ZPE strength, and radioactive decay rates drop as a result. Therefore, this study opens up a different scenario; one which allows the harmonization of both of the observed effects.

Shortly after the initial reports were published, Purdue University News Service added another dimension to the research in its 2010 article Purdue-Stanford team finds radioactive decay rates vary with the sun's rotation.

This press release and Abstract pointed out that a periodicity had been traced in the decay of Silicon 32 and Chlorine 36 at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This periodicity had a broad peak with two spikes on it, one at about 30.6 days, the other at 32.66 days. This broad peak represented a periodicity which was attributed to the solar rotation rate which varies from 26.24 days at the solar equator, as seen from earth, up to almost 38 days near the solar poles. The authors conclude in their Abstract that “this result supports the recent conjecture that solar neutrinos may be responsible for variations in nuclear decay rates.”

However, in view of the apparently contradictory nature of the previous announcements, this one may also have a different explanation; one which is in line with plasma physics and the Zero Point Energy. One entity that exists throughout the solar system that rotates in concert with the sun is the heliospheric current sheet (HCS) illustrated below, along with Wikipedia's good explanation:


The Sun’s heliospheric current sheet is the surface within the Solar System where the polarity of the Sun's magnetic field changes from north to south. Its shape comes from the Sun’s rotating magnetic field which is at an angle to the plane of the orbits of the planets.

As the heliospheric current sheet moves up and down, associated changes occur in plasma density and the direction of the magnetic field. Localized events in the corona of the sun affect the magnetic configuration and modify the properties and position of the HCS. The total radial current flowing in the HCS has been shown to be of the order of 3 billion amperes. The effect of the polarity of the HCS arising from the Sun’s magnetic field is that protons are deflected to the south and electrons to the north. [See G.W. Prolss, “Physics of the Earth’s Space Environment: An Introduction,” Translated by M.K. Bird, pp. 312-313, Springer 2004]. The same may be said for all charged particles, with positive charges being moved to the south and negative charges to the north. This will have its effect on the virtual particle pair distribution and hence on the properties of the vacuum to the north and south of the HCS. This will manifest in a slight change in the rates of radioactive decay to the nuclides in this environment.

One final comment can be made. The action of solar neutrinos has been invoked to explain these three effects. It should be noted however, that this may be an explanation for the 33 day pattern as that had been picked up by the decay rates of silicon 32 and chlorine 36. Since both of these isotopes decay by a Beta process, which involves neutrinos, that is a possibility. The annual variation was picked up using silicon 32 again, but also with radium 226. As noted, silicon 32 is a Beta process involving neutrinos. However the situation with radium 226 is entirely different, since it decays by an Alpha process where neutrinos are not involved. Finally, the situation with solar flares was found using manganese 54 which decays by a Gamma process. Therefore, all three main types of decay are involved, of which only one involves the action of neutrinos. Therefore, the action of neutrinos does not appear to be a viable mechanism. However the action of the ZPE appears to present a consistent explanation for all the observed effects on radioactive elements.