Neutron-rich nucleus shapeshifts between a rugby ball and a discus

An international team led by scientists from IPN Orsay (CNRS/Université Paris-Sud), CEA, and RIKEN (Japan) has performed the first spectroscopy of the extremely neutron-rich isotopes krypton 98 and 100. This experiment showed that there are two coexisting, competing quantum shapes at low energy in 98Kr, never before seen for neutron-rich Kr isotopes. The team also showed that these isotopes experience a gentle onset of deformation with added neutrons, in sharp contrast with neighboring isotopes of rubidium, strontium, and zirconium, which change shapes suddenly at neutron number 60. Read more.

Nuclear pest control could help Ontario (Canada) farmers

Pepper weevils destroyed $83 million in crops in 2016, but researchers are hoping Colbat-60, a nuclear isotope, can sterilize the ruinous insects and put a dent in their population

A high-tech form of insect birth control connected to nuclear power could solve a devastating pest problem for Ontario farmers. Pepper weevils can burrow into farmed peppers and destroy them from the inside, and according to the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, they ruined $83 million worth of crops in 2016 — a figure that does not include the costs of management, suppression initiatives or cleanup.

Nuclear energy provider Bruce Power, Ottawa-based health science company Nordion and the University of Guelph are teaming up to reduce the population of these pesky creatures. Read more.

Secrets of Earth’s birth carried in lava jets from planet’s core

It was there at the birth of our planet 4.5 billion years ago. Now we know how magma from that formative period has survived to the present day, occasionally making it to the surface. And the tale it tells should help us better understand Earth’s formation.

“This deep reservoir is a time capsule preserving signatures of the earliest history of the Earth that are not recorded in any other part of the planet that we have access to,” says Matt Jackson at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Read more.

Radioactive glass from first nuclear explosion test site may hold clues to moon formation

Using fragments of radioactive glass picked up from the site of the first nuclear bomb explosion in the United States, scientists are trying to explain the mystery behind the formation of the moon and the properties of lunar rocks. The study by researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California - San Diego used materials from the Trinity test site in New Mexico to show that the explosion could be similar to a collision between proto-Earth and a Mars-sized object 4.5 billion years ago. Read more.

Paper spotlights key flaw in widely used radioisotope dating technique

An oversight in a radioisotope dating technique used to date everything from meteorites to geologic samples means that scientists have likely overestimated the age of many samples, according to new research from North Carolina State University.

To conduct radioisotope dating, scientists evaluate the concentration of isotopes in a material. The number of protons in an atom determines which element it is, while the number of neutrons determines which isotope it is. For example, strontium-86 has 38 protons and 48 neutrons, whereas strontium-87 has 38 protons and 49 neutrons. Radioactive elements, such as rubidium-87 (but not strontium-86 or strontium-87), decay over time. By evaluating the concentrations of all of these isotopes in a rock sample, scientists can determine what its original make-up of strontium and rubidium were. Then, by assessing the isotope concentrations of rubidium and strontium, scientists can back-calculate to determine when the rock was formed. Read more.