A Neutrino Cataclysm?

A Neutrino Cataclysm?

I do set My bow in the cloud

We consider the possibility that a shower of neutrinos could have accelerated rates of radioactive decay at some time in the past. This could cause radiometric dating to err, as well as initiating a worldwide cataclysm by heating the earth and causing underground waters to break forth. Although this possibility is speculative, we find it interesting.

First, some information about neutrinos from the online Encyclopedia Britannica:

The electron-neutrino was proposed in 1930 by the Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli to explain the apparent loss of energy in the process of beta decay, a form of radioactivity. The Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi further elaborated (1934) the proposal and gave the particle its name. An electron-neutrino is emitted along with a positron in positive beta decay, while an electron-antineutrino is emitted with an electron in negative beta decay.

Neutrinos are the most penetrating of subatomic particles because they react with matter only through the weak interaction. Neutrinos do not cause ionization, because they are not electrically charged. Only 1 in 10 billion, traveling through matter a distance equal to the Earth's diameter, reacts with a proton or neutron. Electron-neutrinos were first experimentally observed in 1956, when a beam of antineutrinos from a nuclear reactor produced neutrons and positrons by reacting with protons.

(from online EB article Neutrino)

A few of these neutrinos interact with the nucleii of atoms, and could induce radioactive decay. But if there were many more of them, this could happen much more often, speeding up decay rates. We observe that there was a recent large release of energy that probably included huge numbers of neutrinos:


A recently detected cosmic gamma ray burst released a hundred times more energy than previously theorized, making it the most powerful explosion since the creation of the universe in the Big Bang.

"For about one or two seconds, this burst was as luminous as all the rest of the entire universe," said Caltech professor George Djorgovski, one of the two principal investigators on the team from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.


From the distance and the observed brightness of the burst, astronomers derived the amount of energy released in the flash. Although the burst lasted approximately 50 seconds, the energy released was hundreds of times larger than the energy given out in supernova explosions, and it is about equal to the amount of energy radiated by our entire Galaxy over a period of a couple of centuries. Scientists say it is possible that other forms of radiation from the burst, such as neutrinos or gravity waves, which are extremely difficult to detect, carried a hundred times more energy than that.

(from http://ispec.scibernet.com)

Note that this object was brighter than the entire universe for a couple of seconds. And there was probably a hundred times more energy in neutrinos and gravity waves than was visible. There are thought to be over 10^20 stars in the universe, of which the sun is typical, so this would probably imply 10^20 times more neutrinos than the sun produces. It could be substantially more. Even if this object were a million times as far away as the sun, there would still be 10^8 times as many neutrinos reaching the earth as currently, and possibly many more. If such an event occurred at some time in the past, it could have accelerated radioactive decay on earth.

A previous gamma ray burst was not quite as intense:

Discovery may be "Smoking Gun" in Gamma Ray Burst Mystery
UAH Scientist at NASA/Marshall Leads International Team of Discovery
March 31, 1997

An international team of University and NASA astronomers have detected a flash of light from a distant galaxy - a sentinel that may definitively solve a 30-year mystery in astrophysics by demonstrating that cosmic gamma-ray bursts come from the distant reaches of the universe.

That would mean gamma-ray bursts represent an energy release in a few seconds equivalent to the amount our Sun will emit in its entire ten-billion-year lifetime.

A team led by Dr. Jan van Paradijs, the Pei-Ling Chan eminent scholar in physics at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and a professor of astronomy at the University of Amsterdam, has identified a dim, distant galaxy as the possible source of a gamma-ray burst that swept through the sky on February 28.

(from http://science.msfc.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast31mar97_1.htm )

But even this event emitted as much energy in a few seconds as the sun emits during 10 billion years. This implies an intensity of energy 3 * 10^16 times as great as the sun, and probably a similar (or larger) factor in neutrino intensities.

One proposed explanation for the gamma ray bursts is colliding neutron stars. This might happen fairly often, since many stars are binary stars, and if both partners became neutron stars, there would be a pair of orbiting neutron stars. Then their passage through a supernova stage or magnetic or tidal interactions could disturb their orbits so that they would collide, or passage through a cloud of dust could have a similar effect.

Such events could accelerate radioactive decay rates, if they were not too far from the earth. Such events might also accelerate stellar development, if they are frequent enough.

If a supernova had something to do with the Flood, then the iridium layer found at the K-T boundary, when the dinosaurs died out, could represent material from this supernova that reached the earth some time afterwards, assuming that the Mesozoic deposits are post-Flood.

A problem with these scenarios is that any source near enough significantly to increase decay rates in this way, would probably emit enough heat and light energy to vaporize the earth, since only a small fraction of neutrinos interact with the earth, but all heat and light energy directed at the earth has an effect. However, it is possible that the heat, light, and radiation could be blocked by a dust cloud while the neutrinos could get through. Perhaps the heat, light, and radiation would be preferentially emitted in certain directions, largely missing the solar system. Also, there could be other kinds of events that emit more neutrinos and less heat and light. In addition, at the moment of creation, there could have been huge numbers of neutrinos emitted, which could have had a similar effect of speeding up decay rates and making the universe appear old very quickly.

Another possibility is that some of the heat, light, and radiation did reach the earth, and had a part in initiating the Flood.

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