Cosmic particles called muons may revolutionise many areas of science.
Senior Lecturer of Particle Physics, Lancaster University
Nov 3, 2017
Particle physicists have uncovered a large, hidden void in Khufu’s Pyramid, the largest pyramid in Giza, Egypt – built between 2600 and 2500 BC. The discovery, published in Nature, was made using cosmic-ray based imaging and may help scientists work out how the enigmatic pyramid was actually constructed.
The technology works by tracking particles called muons. They are very similar to electrons – having the same charge and a quantum property called spin – but are 207 times heavier. This difference in mass is quite important as it turns out it determines how these particles interact when hitting matter.
Highly energetic electrons emit electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays, when they hit solid matter – making them lose energy and get stuck in the target material. Due to the muon’s much higher mass, this emission of electromagnetic radiation is suppressed by a factor of 207 squared compared to electrons. As a result, muons are not stopped so quickly by any material, they are highly penetrative.
Muons are commonly produced in cosmic rays. The Earth’s upper atmosphere is constantly bombarded with charged particles from the sun but also from sources outside of our solar system. It is the latter that provide the more energetic cosmic rays that can produce muons and other particles in a chain of reactions.
As muons have a relatively long lifetime and are pretty stable, they are the most numerous particles seen from cosmic rays at ground level. And although a lot of energy is lost on the way, muons with very high energies do occur.
The particles are fairly easy to detect. They produce a thin trail of “ionisation” along the path they take – which means that they knock electrons off atoms, leaving the atoms charged. This is quite handy, allowing scientists using several detectors to follow the path of the muon back to its origin. Also, if there’s a lot of material in the way of the muon, it can lose all of its energy and stop in the material and decay (split into other particles) before being detected.
These properties make muons great candidates for taking images of objects that otherwise are impenetrable or impossible to observe. Just like bones produce a shadow on a photographic film exposed to X-rays, a heavy and dense object with a high atomic number will produce a shadow or a reduction in the number of muons being able to pass through that object.
The first time muons were used in this way was in 1955, when E. P. George measured the overburden of rock over a tunnel by comparing the muon flux outside and inside of the said tunnel. The first known attempt to take a deliberate “muogram” happened in 1970 when Luis W. Alvarez looked for extended caverns in the second pyramid of Giza, but found none.
Within the last decade or so, muon tomography has experienced a bit of a fresh boost. In 2007, a Japanese collaboration took a muogram of the crater of the volcano Mt Asama to investigate its inside structure.
The easiest way to use muons to investigate large objects such as a pyramid is to look for differences in the muon flux coming through it. A solid pyramid would leave a shadow or a reduction in the number of muons in that direction. If there is a large hollow void inside the pyramid the muon flux would be increased in the direction of that void. The bigger the difference between “solid” and “hollow” the easier it becomes.
All you need to do is sit somewhere near the ground, look a bit upwards from the horizon towards the pyramid and count the number of muons coming from every direction. As cosmic muons need to be somewhat energetic to pass through a whole pyramid and as our detector “eyes” are relatively small, we need to sit there and count for quite a while, typically several months in order to count enough muons. In the same way as we have two eyes to get a 3D image of the world in our brains, we want two separate detector “eyes” to get a 3D image of the void inside the pyramid.
The interesting thing about the approach of this team is that they have chosen three different detector technologies to investigate the pyramid. The first one is a bit old fashioned but offers a supreme resolution of the resulting image: photographic plates which get blackened by the ionisation. These were left for months inside of one of the known chambers in the pyramid and analysed in Japan after data taking was finished.
For the second method plastic “scintillators” that produce a light flash when a charged particle passes through them were employed. These kinds of detectors are used in several modern neutrino experiments.
And finally chambers filled with gas, where the ionisation caused by the charged particles can be monitored, were used to look directly along the direction of the newly discovered cavern.
The electronic signal of those detectors was directly phoned back to Paris via a 3G data link. Of course a pyramid with three known caverns and a large hollow gallery inside is a bit of a complex object to take a muogram of (it only shows light and dark). So often these pictures need to be compared to a computer simulation of the cosmic muons and the known pyramid, with warts and all. In this case, a careful analysis of the pictures of the three detectors and the computer simulation yielded the discovery of a 30 metre long void, up to now unknown, inside of the Great Pyramid of Giza. What a great success for a new toolkit.
The technique can now help us study the detailed shape of this void. While we don’t know anything about the role of the structure, research projects involving scientists from other backgrounds could build on this study to help us discover more about its function.
It’s great to see how cutting-edge particle physics can help us shed light on the most ancient human culture. Perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of a revolution in science – making it truly interdisciplinary.
Repent, repent, by the seat of your pants!
Well I am sure glad that we now know when the end of the world, as we know it, will happen. That only leaves us around one month from now to sort out our human affairs. Might as well quit our jobs, stop paying the mortgage and credit cards, and organize our thoughts before we meet our maker. You’re welcome.
Aug 18, 2017
Did you know that the Great Pyramid of Giza contains ENOUGH stone to make an almost 2-feet-high wall around the entire PLANET? And that there were traces o
While many questions remain unanswered about the Great Pyramid of Giza, we still remain perplexed by the complexity and precision of this incredible ancient structure.
The majestic structures known as the Pyramids –specifically those located at the Giza Plateau in Egypt— are among the most fascinating standing structures on the surface of our planet. For centuries, researchers have discussed countless theories trying to explain why, and how these monumental stone structures came into existence. Today, not a single scholars has been able to answer three of the most important questions regarding the Pyramids at Giza: Who built them, why were they built and HOW were they built?
According to the most accepted versions, the Pyramids were constructed by massive armies of builders. This was mentioned –for the first time in hoistory— by Greek Philosopher and historian Herodotus who claimed that the Pyramids at Giza were constructed by groups of 100,000 men, which changed very month, for a period of 20 years.
However, the explanation put forth by Herodotus seems impossible when you analyze it a bit. If what Herodotus said was true then it would mean that ONE block of stone has to be precisely placed into position ever 3 ½ minutes, 24 hours a day.
However, many people seem to ignore the fact that we are talking about a ludicrous amount of manpower which according to many wasn’t anywhere available during the 4th Dynasty of Egypt.
But even if that was SOMEHOW done, just how ere the massive blocks transported? And how were the stones placed as the Pyramid grew in height? Don’t forget that the Pyramid of Khufu, for example, is a 2.3-million-stone-block monument.
According to the most accepted versions in history, the Pyramids were erected in order to serve as eternal resting places for the Pharaohs, giant monuments that were constructed to preserve the bodies of the Kings and help them in their journey through the Afterlife. However, NOT ONE MUMMY has been discovered by scholars inside the Pyramid. This is one of the greatest misconceptions that has led to the formation of a number of misunderstandings about Ancient Egyptian society, their culture and origins.
It is known for a fact that The Great Pyramid of Giza does not contain a Pharaoh’s mummy. In fact, nothing found inside the Pyramid points that there ever was one.
Interestingly, the only reason why mainstream scholars have wondered off and suggested that the Pyramid is a GIGANTIC tomb is thanks to Victorian inscriptions. Way back in history, when Colonel Howard, Vyse decided he wanted to become the most famous Egyptologist of all time, he visited the Pyramid and wanted to make a discovery that would blast him off into the History Books. During the time he spent in Egypt he was extremely disappointed at finding that everywhere he searched inside the Pyramid, nothing was there worthy to mention.
During the last season in Egypt, it is said that Colonel Vyse sneaked into the ‘air shafts’ located above the King’s Chamber and painted some hieroglyphs in Red Paint. The following morning, when he examined the Pyramid, he came across these ‘etchings’ earning him a place in history for discovering the identity of the owner of the Great Pyramid.
It is noteworthy to mention that at Giza, Colonel Vyse used gunpowder to force his way into a number of monuments including the burial chamber of the Pyramid of Menakaure.
The Stone Sarcophagus located within the Great Pyramid of Giza is way too large to have been brought inside from the outside. The granite coffer in the “King’s Chamber” is too big to fit through the passages and so it must have been put in place during construction. The coffer was made out of a block of solid granite. This would have required bronze saws 8-9 ft. long set with teeth of sapphires. Hollowing out of the interior would require tubular drills of the same material applied with a tremendous vertical force. Microscopic analysis of the coffer reveals that it was made with a fixed point drill that used hard jewel bits and a drilling force of 2 tons.
Radioactive sand? Ummm yeah… Not long ago, former NASA consultant Richard Hoagland commented that there were traces of ‘RADIOACTIVE SAND’ found near the Queens chamber. According to many, this radioactive sand might have been the cause that led people like Napoleon to experience weird hallucinations. Also this might help explain why the top of the Pyramid seems to be a 1000 year older than the bottom.
Another bewildering fact is that the Great Pyramid of Giza contains ENOUGH stone to make an almost 2-feet-high wall around the entire PLANET, and here is how:
05 Apr 2015
The Nubian Meroe pyramids, much smaller but just as impressive as the more famous Egyptian ones, are found on the east bank of the Nile river, near a group of villages called Bagrawiyah. The pyramids get their name from the ancient city of Meroe, the capital of the Kingdom of Kush, an ancient African kingdom situated in what is now the Republic of Sudan.
Around 1000 BCE, after the fall of the 24th Egyptian dynasty, the Nubian Kingdom of Kush arose as the leading power in the middle Nile region. The Kushite kings took over and ruled much of Egypt from 712 to 657 BCE. In 300 BCE, when the capital and royal burial ground of the kingdom moved to the Meroe region, the pharaonic tradition of building pyramids to encapsulate the tombs of rulers continued here.