I've been fascinated by cosmic rays, ever since they turned Ben Grimm, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, and her kid brother Johnny into world-saving superheroes. So I was glad to hear that Los Alamos scientists had figured out a way to use the rays to detect smuggled nuclear material. Government Executive explains:
The technique involves the use of muons, which are produced when cosmic radiation decays as it hits the Earth. Los Alamos researchers have developed a system that uses muon radiography to detect uranium, plutonium or other dense materials. A suspect object, such as a cargo container, is passed through two pairs of detectors - one set above the object and one below - that record muons' paths before and after they pass through the object. Analysis of the energy and trajectory of the muons results in a three-dimensional map of the inside of the suspect object...Muon radiography has several advantages over detectors now deployed at U.S. borders, which use either X-rays or gamma rays, according to the laboratory. For example, gamma-ray detectors are less penetrating than those using muons, produce results that require additional interpretation and require the use of hazardous material such as cobalt.Los Alamos scientists are now working to develop a set of muon radiography detectors large enough to scan large metal objects within 60 seconds. As the process develops, inspectors using the detectors may be able to clear a vehicle within about 20 seconds of muon exposure, the laboratory release says."We believe we've worked through all of the major obstacles to building a prototype system for a range of security issues," Chris Morris of the laboratory's Physics Division.There's no word, yet, on whether the detector could serve as an early warning system, should the Skrulls invade, or Galactus decides to return to eat the planet.