Lightning Can Trigger Nuclear Reactions, Creating Rare Atomic Isotopes

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sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: Rare forms of atoms, like carbon-13, carbon-14, and nitrogen-15, have long been used to figure out the ages of ancient artifacts and probe the nuances of prehistoric food chains. The source of these rare isotopes? Complicated cascades of subatomic reactions in the atmosphere triggered by high-energy cosmic rays from outer space. Now, a team of scientists is adding one more isotope initiator to its list: lightning. Strong bolts of lightning can unleash the same flurry of nuclear reactions as cosmic rays, the researchers report in Nature. But, they add, the isotopes created by these storms likely constitute a small portion of all such atoms — so the new findings are unlikely to change the way other scientists use them for dating and geotracing. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Lightning Can Trigger Nuclear Reactions, Creating Rare Atomic Isotopes

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