Archive for Monday, July 7, 2008

KU physics student examines cosmic ray effects on atmosphere

Research considered for national award explores possible link to mass extinction

July 7, 2008


Members of Kansas University's physics department now have a new tool to help them determine what effect cosmic rays may have on mass extinction.

While working with a group of other researchers, Alexander Krejci, Lawrence senior, developed a set of calculations that would allow researchers to study the effect a large number of rays could have on the Earth's atmosphere.

Adrian Mellott, professor of astrobiophysics and cosmology, said Krejci's discovery was especially useful because in the past, physicists were able to only study individual cosmic rays.

Krejci was named one of five finalists for the Vanderbilt Prize for Undergraduate Research in Physics and Astronomy. The award is given annually by the physics and astronomy department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Robert Scherrer, department chair of Vanderbilt's physics program, said the award began four years ago to recognize undergraduate students who had shown noteworthy achievements in their field. "We've had some very talented applicants lately," he said.

Mellott said Krejci's development would help not only researchers at KU, but anyone else who wanted to study the effects that a large number of cosmic rays could have on the atmosphere.

Mellott said he was pleased to see one of the students he had advised earn recognition for the work he had produced as an undergraduate.

Krejci, who is spending the summer in Geneva, Switzerland, at the European Center for Nuclear Research as an undergraduate researcher, said in an e-mail it was good to know that he was able to learn without a textbook.

"It feels good to know that I accomplished something noteworthy," Krejci said.


gr 9 years, 10 months ago

If these are the same cosmic rays which produce C-14, aren't they assumed to be constant throughout time?

melott 9 years, 10 months ago

No. They are known to vary with the sunspot cycle. There are long-term fluctuations, big jumps in the recent past which no one understands. And, we are talking about a 62 million year variation which is too far back to see with C-14....

melott 9 years, 10 months ago

Cloud formation: being argued over right now. An emotional argument, because the question of warming has gotten folded into it. Age: yes, there are known jumps in the 14C formation rate, for example I think 10,500 14C years corresponds to 12,900 calendar years. I may have this a bit wrong, but you get the idea.

gr 9 years, 10 months ago

"There are long-term fluctuations, big jumps in the recent past which no one understands."So, if by recent past you mean less than about 50,000 years, then C-14 is not a reliable measure of age? Even if you mean longer time frames, what do we know about whether there are flucuations and big jumps within the 50,000 years which we may not know about?

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