posted on Jul, 8 2006 @ 01:12 AM
An aside first: Why an arrowhead shape in Bob Lazard's story? A very interesting shape for a scientific experiment, or did he just use it to
dramatize it a little?
An alpha particle is made up of 2 protons and 2 neutrons which is thus a helium nucleus. When a radioactive material emits an alpha particle it thus
loses a helium nucleus and decays into an isotope of the next material with 2 fewer protons (for example radium-238 [this is the total atomic weight
of its of protons and neutrons; it has 92 protons] becomes thorium-234, which has 90 protons). On the other side, whichever material gains this
particle similarly becomes an isotope of the material with correspondingly more protons. Ununpentium 115 supposedly would become ununseptium 117.
Since the claim is that 115 transformed into 116 it implies that only one proton attached to 116 and the other one streaked off as energy, the flash
of light observed, and supposedly antimatter created. This would be the more likely process than the earlier stated decay back to 115 for which there
does not appear to be any logical catalyst, something would have to exert significant force to the new proton to push it again out of the nucleus.
(Under that scenario the emitted particle would have to be beta (hydrogen) with one proton and neutron, not alpha; a little surprising that Bob Lazard
would miss that.)
Now the problems.
Antoine Becquerel did find in 1899 that when an alpha particle (helium nucleus) strikes zinc sulfide, tiny but visible flashes of light
('scintillations') can be observed even with naked eye under dark conditions. This was later put to use in such objects as watches with luminescent
dials, I had one when I was a kid, it was kind of a status symbol back then (no, that wasn't in 1899). It is possible that the combination of dry ice
and lantern mantle could work along similar lines. Some alpha particles even make sudden 90 degree turns when accelerated through gold foil so there
is a possible vague basis in fact for Lazard's show but I am convinced that it was more like a magician's parlor trick and nothing to do with
Ununpentium belongs to a group of elements in the periodic chart which starts with nitrogen (7 protons, 7 neutrons and 7 electrons), then phosphorus
(14), arsenic (33, metalloid), antimony (51, metalloid), bismuth (83, metal) and ununpentium (115 electrons, metal). You can kind of see the types of
properties that these materials have. None of the better known radioactive materials have been shown to produce antimatter as a side reaction and I
wonder if the decay of element 115 would be that much different. Maybe it would have to be some radically different one, magical element 815?
An alpha particle and proton/atomic nucleus are both positively charged and thus strongly repel each other. It would thus take a tremendous level of
energy for the ap to first penetrate the electron shield and then to even strike the nucleus, let alone penetrate it and become part of it. This is
done in particle accelerators, not in a jar with a lantern mantle. In fact, radioactivity as a means for having an alpha particle strike a nucleus is
completely ruled out for atoms beyond potassium (with a much weaker charge of 19, ie 19 protons). (For a good source on this see for example
"Understanding Physics" by Isaac Asimov, 'Nuclear Chemistry', p 154-.)
And the bigger problems.
Already mentioned by someone, as an object approaches the speed of light, its mass approaches infinity, as long as e=mc2 holds.
I have to look up my Gravity Amplification 101 text book, I just can't remember how its done. The 'speed' of gravity increases 32ft/sec/sec until
terminal velocity is reached and I am not sure how antimatter would get it even up to the speed of light.
And there is the general problem with Bob Lazard's credibility, I don't think that any of his past claims have really been able to stand up to