Earth’s First Nuclear Reactor Is 1.7 Billion Years Old And Was Made Naturally

If you were hunting for alien intelligence, looking for a surefire signature from across the Universe of their activity, you’d have a few options. You could look for an intelligent radio broadcast, like the type humans began emitting in the 20th century. You could look for examples of planet-wide modifications, like human civilization displays when you view Earth at a high-enough resolution. You could look for artificial illumination at night, like our cities, towns, and fisheries display, visible from space.

Or, you might look for a technological achievement, like the creation of particles like antineutrinos in a nuclear reactor. After all, that’s how we first detected neutrinos (or antineutrinos) on Earth. But if we took that last option, we might fool ourselves. Earth created a nuclear reactor, naturally, long before humans ever existed. Read more.

An ode to nuclear waste

Nuclear power is so amazing even its waste is enormously beneficial.

Frankenstein, 200 years old this year, can still be read as a relevant warning. It is a warning against modern technology. In Mary Shelley’s novel, we read about a young, intelligent scientist, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who creates a friend for himself, but who then recoils when he sees that his creature has come to life. That creature ultimately becomes a monster that chases his inventor and kills his sister and bride. The message it impresses on many readers, then and now, is: don’t meddle with nature; don’t go too far.

Now, let’s talk about nuclear waste, considered by many as a painful accident of modern technology. What do you think when you hear that term? Do you think nuclear waste is a product of human arrogance? Do you wish we had never started with all this nuclear technology? Perhaps it makes you feel uncomfortable just to think about the fact that nuclear waste exists on this planet.

Let’s be frank: you’re a little afraid of it, aren’t you? Read more.

Rugby or football? ISOLDE reveals shape-shifting character of Mercury isotopes

An unprecedented combination of experimental nuclear physics and theoretical and computational modelling techniques has been brought together to reveal the full extent of the odd-even shape staggering of exotic mercury isotopes, and explain how it happens. The result, from an international team at the ISOLDE nuclear physics facility at CERN1, demonstrates and explains a phenomenon unique to mercury isotopes where the shape of the atomic nuclei dramatically moves between a football and rugby ball. Read more.

Early Meteorites Reveal Makeup of Solar System 4.5 Billion Years Ago

Meteorites formed during the birth of the Solar System have helped scientists pinpoint the origin of organic materials necessary for the formation of life on Earth. The finding could also help astronomers explore the possible habitability of planets in other solar systems.

Carbonaceous chondrites are meteorites created from chondritic asteroids that are as old as the Solar System. Organic-rich carbonaceous chondrites are especially rare, encompassing only a few percent of all known meteorites. They consist of the first solid materials – rocks, organics, water ice and fine grain dust – formed in the early Solar System 4.5 billion years ago. When discovered on Earth and analyzed, such meteorites can act much like a time capsule, storing essential clues and revealing information to help scientists understand how planets formed and changed over billions of years. Read more.