Cosmic Radiation

Cosmic Radiation

Every second, there are countless atomic particles passing through our bodies. Not to worry.. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bob Berman is author of the book “The Sun’s Heartbeat,” and it’s the sun that generates most of those particles, including neutrinos infinitesimally small bits of matter with no electrical charge.

Berman: Neutrinos are created in the sun as part of the fusion factory in the core of the sun, and the cool things about neutrinos is that nothing stops them. They fly through the entire Earth in about a twentieth of a second without being slowed down in the least, a trillion crossing every part of our body the size of our thumbnail per second. That’s the least harmful of the things that go through our bodies.

More harmful than neutrinos, by far, are muons, which are created 35 miles up when cosmic rays, which are really broken atom fragments, hit a molecule of air. And then, just like a game of billiards, pieces rain down to Earth’s surface, and each of us gets about 200 muons per second going through our bodies. And because these have some weight to them each one weighs about 200 times more than an electron they sometimes hit the wrong piece of material in a cell nucleus and damage a chromosome. And this gives rise to some of the spontaneous tumors that have always plagued the human race, and you can only avoid them by living underground.

I wouldn’t worry too much about muons ’cause they’re a minor source of radiation, but the higher up you are, the more direct cosmic rays you’re going to receive, which is why people who spend more time higher up pilots, lifetime flight crews, flight attendants have a 1 percent greater incidence of cancer than the rest of the population.

The earth’s magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation, and we’ll hear more about it in future programs. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Cosmic Radiation

Every second, a trillion atomic particles pass through every square inch of our bodies - is it all harmless?
Air Date:06/18/2015
Scientist:
Transcript:

Cosmic Radiation

Every second, there are countless atomic particles passing through our bodies. Not to worry.. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bob Berman is author of the book "The Sun's Heartbeat," and it's the sun that generates most of those particles, including neutrinos infinitesimally small bits of matter with no electrical charge.

Berman: Neutrinos are created in the sun as part of the fusion factory in the core of the sun, and the cool things about neutrinos is that nothing stops them. They fly through the entire Earth in about a twentieth of a second without being slowed down in the least, a trillion crossing every part of our body the size of our thumbnail per second. That's the least harmful of the things that go through our bodies.

More harmful than neutrinos, by far, are muons, which are created 35 miles up when cosmic rays, which are really broken atom fragments, hit a molecule of air. And then, just like a game of billiards, pieces rain down to Earth's surface, and each of us gets about 200 muons per second going through our bodies. And because these have some weight to them each one weighs about 200 times more than an electron they sometimes hit the wrong piece of material in a cell nucleus and damage a chromosome. And this gives rise to some of the spontaneous tumors that have always plagued the human race, and you can only avoid them by living underground.

I wouldn't worry too much about muons 'cause they're a minor source of radiation, but the higher up you are, the more direct cosmic rays you're going to receive, which is why people who spend more time higher up pilots, lifetime flight crews, flight attendants have a 1 percent greater incidence of cancer than the rest of the population.

The earth's magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation, and we'll hear more about it in future programs. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.