New Method to Limit Abundance of Cosmic Ray Quarks

by Leona Marshall Libby, F. J. Thomas


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A contribution to the search for quarks, fundamental physical particles hypothesized by Murray Gell-Mann that carry an electric charge a third or two-thirds that of the proton and arrive on earth via cosmic rays. Considerations of quark chemistry are used in determining an upper limit on their density by a new method, based on the calculation that negative quarks would catalyze fission of heavy elements whether or not strong nuclear forces are important. Quarks de-excited to the lowest orbit could still induce fission in metals having a fission energy such that the process is exothermic. Under these assumptions, one quark would cause fission catalysis equivalent to a 220-watt power source in U-235 and even in U-238, not now useful for power production. A high flux of quarks would destroy nuclear devices and heavy metals, perhaps even bismuth, lead and gold. No such results have been observed in stockpiled fissionable materials, suggesting a low density of quarks at the energies and fluxes available on the surface of the earth.

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